Drastically redefining incarceration in California, prison officials are about to start releasing thousands of female inmates who have children to serve the remainder of their sentences at home, reports the Los Angeles Times. The move, which could affect nearly half the women held in state facilities, will help California meet a court-imposed deadline to make space in its chronically overcrowded prisons. The policy could be extended to male inmates in the near future.
Mothers who were convicted of non-serious, non-sexual crimes — and have two years or less remaining on their sentences — could start going home as early as next week, prisons spokeswoman Dana Toyama said. The women would be required to wear GPS-enabled ankle bracelets and report to parole officers. The program is “a step in breaking the intergenerational cycle of incarceration,” state prisons Secretary Matthew Cate said, arguing that “family involvement is one of the biggest indicators of an inmate’s rehabilitation.” Skeptics abound, including prosecutors and crime victims’ advocates who opposed the idea as it worked its way through the Legislature last year. “If they were such great mothers to begin with, they never would have committed the heinous crime that got them sent to state prison,” said Harriet Salarno, founder of Sacramento-based Crime Victims United. In many cases, the children might be better off in foster care, she said.