Some women are having a worse time than men adjusting to California’s realignment plan, according to several reports.
Realignment is the state’s plan to comply with a federal court order to relieve its overcrowded prisons by switching some offenders from serving their sentences in county jails instead of state prison.
The female offender population is smaller than the male population. However, they are more likely to commit nonviolent, nonserious, and nonsexual crimes, so women offenders are more likely to be impacted by realignment and wind up in a county jail.
Correctional practices for female offenders are different, including requiring female guards for some purposes. They are also more likely than male inmates to have drug problems and are more likely to have experienced physical abuse, according to a report by Public Policy Institute of California.
The report says, “Jail space for female prisoners is less likely to be specialized for high- and low-security levels, and in some cases it may be more difficult to adapt facilities to a substantial increase in female populations.” Another report finds 73 percent of female state prisoners have mental health problems, compared with 55 percent of male prisoners.
The shift of women from prisons to county jails also increases the introduction of illegal contraband normally associated with state prisons, according to a story in the San Luis Obispo Tribune News.
A May 2010 inspection of the San Luis Obispo jail, before realignment, found “parts of the women’s facility were out of compliance with some state regulations, such as how many inmates can be housed in a certain cell,” said Don Allen, a state representative in a newspaper interview.
“Construction on a new women’s jail is expected to start in January, which will alleviate some of the overcrowding when it’s completed in two years,” according to the newspaper story.
The jail’s design capacity is 517, but added beds have increased the capacity to 683.
There were been roughly 635 new commitments to the San Luis Obispo County Jail since the activation of realignment.
The county jail has since released many of those commitments back to the streets after serving their time, but some have much longer sentences to serve.