Mother’s to serve prison sentence at home

A fascinating move by the judicial system in California. Mothers who have been convicted of non serious and non sexual offenses, serve the rest of their sentences at home.

In a bold move by the judicial system to drastically reduce over crowding in prisons female inmates are being reunited with their families and ordered to serve the rest of their prison terms in their homes.

I have a lot of concerns and comments about this kind of ruling.

One concern I have is the issue of fairness with regards to the ruling and gender. The mother’s role in the family is being emphasized and stereotypes about incest, rape, and violent culture cycles. While I think a mother’s role is important, the idea that father who has been committed of a non serious or non sexual offense could not serve out the remainder of his term at home is unequal. Parents of both genders could benefit from being reunited with family and offspring in order to assist in their rehabilitation.

I think this program, if it is to be implemented at all, should most certainly be expanded into the male inmate population.

Also the idea that women are being released from prison because they do not have “non sexual” offenses is ludicrous. Their lifestyles, which put them into the prison system, could potentially place their children at risk for violence and sexual assault. It also perpetuates the stereotype that women cannot be rapists.

I am wondering how this is really going to help relief economic tension on the state of California. True, many children who are in foster care will be placed back in homes with their biological parents, but how will those parents who are serving their sentence at home, financially support themselves and their children? How will they procure jobs which will provide enough income for everyone? When they attend school, how will the qualify for financial aid? Can they be trusted not to default on their student loans? Will these inmates be able to provide emotional resources to their children or curb their own children’s proclivity for crime?

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8 Comments

  1. Posted September 20, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I just don’t have faith that men who get to go serve their time in the home because they are father’s are going to actually father any more than they already were. Women on the other hands, who most likely had a larger role in parenting would be more likely to actually parent…I just see it as an excuse for men to claim they are involved with raising children, when they’re most likely not…

    • Posted September 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      I just don’t have faith that men who get to go serve their time in the home because they are father’s are going to actually father any more than they already were. Women on the other hands, who most likely had a larger role in parenting would be more likely to actually parent.

      I think that unless you’re willing to fall back on outdated biological gender essentialism, this claim is ridiculous. There is no good reason to assume that women are likely to be better parents than men, except for the fact that they have been socialized to view that as their role. Providing imprisoned fathers with the same opportunity to raise their kids as imprisoned mothers only makes sense if our goal is to equalize family roles.

      Making this opportunity only available to women devalues fatherhood, places undue responsibility on mothers and implicitly indicates that A) only women are fit to be parents; and B) that women are only fit to be parents, and that society views the role of “mother” to be the most important element of womanhood.

  2. Posted September 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    This is part of the long history of gender essentialism in law enforcement. Not only do women generally receive shorter sentences than men for virtually every crime, but we also see examples like this where “family reunification” is a priority for mothers, but not for fathers.

    One of the larger social inequalities today is the way our society treats female criminals as compared to male criminals, and it needs to stop. Women have agency and responsibility, and having them serve shorter sentences for crimes suggests that, in fact, they do not.

    • Posted September 20, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      I seem to remember reading how women who “misbehave” outside of their perceived gender roles were actually more likely to serve longer or harsher sentences. For example, because women are not perceived as being violent, if a woman commits a violent crime, they are more likely to receive the harshest sentence possible. Women who are murders, particularly if they murder a man, are more likely to prosecuted with a harsher punishment and receive a longer term.

      • Posted September 20, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        Even when controlled for severity of crime and prior criminal history, women receive shorter sentences than men for the same crime (“Do You Receive a Lighter Prison Sentence Because You Are a Woman? An Economic Analysis of Federal Criminal Sentencing Guidelines” from IZA Discussion Paper No. 2870, June 2007). Oddly enough, this tends to be the result of paternalistic male judges, as the greater the proportion of female judges there are in an area, the less disparity there is between men and women’s sentences.

        Misbehaving outside of gender lines does seem to have an adverse effect, but conversely, women also get benefits when their crimes don’t constitute “gender misbehavior” that men generally do not. I mean, we’re seeing it in this very example: non-violent offenders who are mothers should be allowed to raise their kids, but fathers? Get outta town.

        It’s paternalism in action. Yeah, women serve lighter sentences, but at the expense of being considered less human and less rational by society.

  3. Posted September 20, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Although I never accept discrimination based on gender, an article I read in the Daily (I believe yesterday?) noted that the prison population has a male/female ratio of 9 or 10 to 1. There were only something like 4500 women eligible for this program currently, whereas if it were expanded to men would be in the tens of thousands. The article made it sound like the state started with mothers PARTIALLY because its a much smaller population than fathers, meaning it would be easier to track the progress of this pilot program.

    However, that could just be an excuse . . .

    • Posted September 20, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Well, whites also make up a small portion of the California prison system too. But it would be racist to just sent white people home with their kids over other minorities because we perceive whites to be more readily rehabilitated or better parents.

      • Posted September 21, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        From the article:

        ‘The policy could be extended to male inmates in the near future, administrators said Monday.’

        ‘Since well over 90% of California inmates are men, it is easy to see why prison officials might want to expand the program, said Robert Oakes, legislative director for state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge), who wrote the 2010 bill creating the policy. But that wasn’t the original idea.

        “In crafting the bill, her intent was to single out female inmates with children,” Oakes said. But that could not be done because of a constitutional ban against gender-based discrimination. So the phrase “primary caregiver” was added to the bill.’

        It is interesting to see that the original intent of the law was directly discriminatory and only the state constitution prevented that. Who knows how the new law will prove in practice.

        I lived in California from 2000 – 2009 – the big issue here is that their prison system is hideously overpopulated and underfunded. It was in flagrant violation of federal judges’ orders to reduce crowding even before the current recession hit and the state government became more or less nonfunctional. They are basically, and rightly, desperate to do anything to alleviate this situation. There’s no realistic path to getting more revenue so the only solution I can imagine is releasing some prisoners. At this point the question is less “should we?” and more “which ones?”.

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