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CA Prisons Leave Women Parolees Ill-Prepared

A California state government oversight panel released a study on Wednesday showing that despite the fact that there are five times the number of women in the California prison system (some 22,000) than there were two decades ago, female prisoners are still subject to policies and practices that are designed for male prisoners who are generally serving time for much more violent crimes. Because of this, women who leave prison are less equipped to find a job, housing, or counseling for the common problem of drug addiction. Because of the failures of the prison system, nearly half of female parolees violate the terms of their parole and are placed back in prison, according to the report, titled Breaking the Barriers for Women on Parole. In California, every prisoner is automatically put on parole at the end of their sentence. Some 64 percent of women prisoners are single mothers of minors. Their children are also five to six times more likely to be imprisoned than their peers. According to the report, the average female inmate was a victim of physical or sexual abuse as a young woman, has a drug addiction, and was incarcerated for narcotic use or for stealing in order to buy narcotics. Terry Thornton, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections, told the Los Angeles Times that prison officials are in agreement with the report’s findings, and that the department is interested in tailoring programs to meet the needs of women in prison. The department has also applied for a federal grant to fund the study of successful programs in other states that have reduced the rate of re-imprisonment. In November, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics announced that the number of women prisoners in state and federal prisons is at an all time high and growing at nearly twice the pace of male prisoners. There were over 100,000 women in state and federal prisons for the first time in 2003. DONATE to Ms. magazine’s Women in Prison Program, which provides magazines to women in prison across the country JOIN the Ms. community and receive one year of the premier feminist publication

Sources:

Breaking the Barriers Executive Summary; Los Angeles Times 12/16/04; Feminist Daily Newswire 11/18/04