Advocates: Women's Needs Not Addressed in Prison Realignment Plan

TOPIC ALERT:

Women's health advocates are worried that a new law designed to improve prison medical care by shifting inmates to county jails does not address the needs of female prisoners, the Contra Costa Times reports (Bohan, Contra Costa Times, 3/1).

Background

About six years ago, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson called for federal oversight of the state's prison health care system after determining that an average of one inmate per week died as a result of malpractice or neglect.

Last spring, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a law (AB 109) that shifts low-level offenders to county jails to address prison overcrowding.

In January, Henderson said that oversight of California's prison health care can end because the state has adequately improved inmate care through efforts to reduce overcrowding and build prison medical facilities (California Healthline, 2/24).

The Needs of Female Inmates

Edwina Perez-Santiago -- who has established a program to help female prisoners who are shifted to county jails -- said state officials have been focusing only on the needs of male prisoners during realignment efforts.

She noted that female inmates have unique needs, such as arranging care for their children.

Karen Shain -- policy director with Legal Services for Prisoners With Children -- said, "Women are going to be impacted [by AB 109], proportionally, much more than men."

She noted that more than half of the 7,500 women in state prison were convicted of low-level offenses and that "every county" will have to address the needs of female inmates as a result of the bill (Contra Costa Times, 3/1).


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