California’s one-size-fits-all corrections system is failing one group of offenders more dramatically than any other: the 22,000 female convicts and parolees, whose crimes are overwhelmingly nonviolent, says a study issued yesterday by a government oversight panel. The Los Angeles Times reports that in a continuation of critical reports on $6-billion-a-year penal system, the bipartisan Little Hoover Commission said the number of women in California prisons has increased fivefold during the last two decades. Yet the state continues to run a system with policies, practices, programs, and facilities designed mostly for violent men, the report said.
Few women leaving prison receive help finding a job, housing or counseling for drug addictions that typically landed them behind bars. Women convicted of drug crimes – about one in three offenders – are barred by federal rules from receiving most welfare benefits and, in many cases, do not qualify for public housing. Not surprisingly, nearly half of female ex-convicts violate their parole and wind up back in prison, almost always for nonviolent behavior. “If we fail to intervene effectively in the lives of these women and their children now, California will pay the cost for generations to come,” said Commissioner Teddie Ray, chairwoman of the subcommittee that produced the report.