A California prisons program meant to expedite the reunification of inmates with their families – but which excludes male prisoners – is being challenged in federal court as discriminatory and short-sighted.
Lawyers for inmates are seeking a preliminary injunction to force prison officials to include men in the program.
An inmate enrolled in the Alternative Custody Program receives a day off her sentence for each day she participates. The inmate is released from prison and allowed to live in a residential home, transitional care facility, or residential drug treatment program for the remainder of her sentence. She is regularly checked on by a parole agent and subject to electronic monitoring. Each inmate has an individualized treatment and rehabilitation plan. Serious or violent offenders are not eligible.
As originally enacted by the Legislature in 2010, the program was open to all female prisoners, but only to male prisoners who were “primary caregivers” of dependent children.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation offered the program only to females. Two years later, the Legislature amended the statute to expressly exclude men, and that became permanent on Feb. 25, 2013.
The exclusion violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, the inmates’ lawyers claim in a lawsuit filed Thursday in Sacramento federal court. The clause requires that all persons in similar situations be treated alike.