There is no impact on the County General Fund as a result of receiving this report.
REASONS FOR RECOMMENDATION
In the Fall of 2013, the Department of Correction, Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Office of Women's Policy (OWP) established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for what is believed to be the first County Jail Monitoring Program in California for a Women's Facility in order to maintain a consistent focus on the needs of female offenders and for the development of an annual report on the progress being made. The Office of Women's Policy provides the initial training for jail monitors and coordinates this effort which to date has trained 18 Commissioners and community volunteers to conduct "observation tours,” focus groups and interviews with staff and female inmates.
The CSW report is an analysis of observations, forms, policies, interviews with staff and female inmates and other stakeholders to assess systems - not individuals - in meeting the needs of women in the jail system.
The CSW Jail Monitors are trained by OWP staff but comprised of CSW commissioners and trained volunteers. It is a collaborative effort between CSW, OWP and Department of Corrections (DOC).
The CSW Jail Monitoring Program focuses specifically on female offenders, whose needs historically are often overlooked and go unaddressed in corrections given the fact that they are a much smaller percentage of the overall jail population and because systems are designed primarily around the needs of the larger male population. The Jail Monitoring Program is based on Gender Responsive Theory, pioneered by Bloom, Owen and Covington (which has been acknowledge by the National Institute of Corrections as the most current research on “what works” with management and programming for female offenders). The Jail Monitoring Program seeks systems’ change while building capacity and collaboration with the DOC so that training and education of staff, management of female inmates, and programming decisions incorporate gender responsive theory for improved outcomes for the women.
Through this work the Jail Monitors have achieved greater understanding of the jail operation and persistent challenges for women at the Elmwood facility. Subsequently, the Jail Monitors and DOC have formulated solutions that can help alleviate the needs and support the rehabilitation of incarcerated women as they prepare to reenter their communities, and for a majority of them, reunify with their children.
The following report, as required in their MOU, is based on work during the first year of the program and summarizes the efforts to date and findings of the Jail Monitors.
The recommended action will have a positive impact on children that have incarcerated mothers.
The recommended action will have a positive impact on seniors who are incarcerated and/or have family members that are incarcerated.
This report highlights an effort that is consistent with the County’s sustainability goals of promoting equity and efficient/effective programs and systems that better serve female offenders and improve their outcomes.
The MOU that established monitoring was designed with the intent to document the needs of female inmates by using a gender-responsive lens. While other monitoring efforts exist they are often complaint-based or fail in other ways to recognize all the pieces that must come together to successfully operate the fifth largest county jail system in California. Monitoring for female inmates is also not about individual behavior (good or bad) but examines and allows for a deeper understanding of the systems, policies and practices. It is based on a collaborative effort to support good governance and the efficient use of public funds. Further, it is structured to support gender-responsive, culturally competent, trauma-informed, recovery-oriented systems analysis.
A better system is one that provides services to female inmates at a gender-responsive facility with culturally competent programming. Further, a trauma-informed, recovery orientation is necessary in order to ensure that the women are able to re-enter society as more productive and integral members.
Monitors recognize that resources for female inmates are not abundant, that facilities are old and programming is severely limited, but with appropriate training and investment in programming, the DOC may be able to have more success in rehabilitation, be more cost-effective for the community in the long-run, and create a detention facility that speaks to the realities of these women’s lives.
In attempts to get the firsthand perspective of the female inmates themselves, the Jail Monitors have visited the inmates and toured facilities. Jail Monitors have observed several needs that can be addressed to ensure that the inmates are able to serve their time in humane conditions with an emphasis on rehabilitation. The Jail Monitors believe that there can be improvements in crisis services and grievance procedures. Also, the need for more staff is something that is imperative both for staff and for the inmates in order to increase the security and conditions that the women live in.
The Jail Monitors have also done focus groups in order to understand more closely what the challenges are for the inmates in their experiences in custody and their experiences re-entering into their communities. The focus groups gave the Jail Monitors insight into challenges faced by inmates such as their feeling of frustration over the lack of programming or other rehabilitative activities. The focus groups yielded insights into the alarming lack of support for and resources for women who are released from jail. Inmates noted that housing was especially difficult for them to come by, and something that often led them to return to the conditions and pathways to prison.
Jail Monitor recommendations include implementation of the following:
- Explore the feasibility of staffing the women’s section as an autonomous facility
- Develop and implement a department-wide gender-responsive protocol
- Gender-responsive training for all staff beginning at the Academy level
- Gender-responsive, trauma-informed, recovery-oriented, culturally appropriate programming and services for inmates;
- Implement a classification system validated by gender
- Ensure that all inmates leave the facility with an exit plan that includes preparation and orientation about support programs for re-entry;
Women’s Jail Monitoring is intentionally designed to be something that is more than a response to complaints and unlike other monitoring programs. However, future Jail Monitor Reports should include an analysis of grievances. That data was not available this year.
Additional questions monitors have and ask Supervisors to explore and continue to address with staff include:
· The need for improved data in general and by gender
· Classification: the number of reclassifications requested and approved (by gender) as well as the time it takes to process a reclassification request
· Analysis of grievances and infractions
· A deeper exploration of the charge for medical requests
· A comparison of programming for women and men
· A deeper analysis of lockdown times and other time when women, particularly in minimum camp, must remain on their bunks
· An analysis of mental health referrals by gender
Prisons were created to keep very dangerous men away from society. The model just doesn’t work when applied to the typical low-level, non-violent female inmate. The goal for all working with women in the criminal justice system should be to decrease the number of inmates—through the one control that the DOC has—by providing a space where offenders can rehabilitate and change their lives in an effort to rejoin the community as contributing members of society.
While there is a substantial body of research and evidence to support that the traditional model of incarceration does not work for the current state of corrections in California, more recognition of the specific and distinct needs of women and girls in this system and training and systems adjustments to better meet those needs remains an important priority for the County. This report is an important piece to a complex puzzle but if thoughtfully considered and its recommendations integrated, we will move closer toward an effective rehabilitative correctional system that allows women to break the cycle of incarceration and rebuild their lives.
The Office of the Clerk of the Board serves as the ex-officio secretary for the Commission on the Status of Women, and this transmittal is forwarded on the Commission's behalf.
CONSEQUENCES OF NEGATIVE ACTION
The report will not be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for consideration.
STEPS FOLLOWING APPROVAL
The Clerk of the Board will forward the report to the full Board of Supervisors for consideration.