California’s “Alternative Custody Program” Is Sexist Against Men

California has a new program to let some non-violent offenders serve some time living at home, wearing an ankle monitor. Yay California!1

The program is for prisoners who were the primary caretakers of their parents before they entered prison. That seems good to me; you have to start somewhere, and that’s a good population to start with. Hopefully, if the program is successful, it can be extended to other non-violent prisoners.

But here’s the problem: Only female prisoners are able to use the “Alternative Custody Program.”

Spokeswoman Dana Toyama said the bill that made the program possible, SB 1266, was written with women in mind, because they tend to be the primary caregivers.

Toyama said constitutionally CDCR cannot bar men from applying to participate in the program, but she said they do not have the necessary programs currently in place to approve their participation.

“Right now, we are not offering it to them, but they can’t be statutorily excluded. We just don’t have the resources to offer it to male inmates,” Toyama said. She also said they do not have a date set to start extending the program to men.

It should be noted that although an earlier version of SB 1266 was written for mothers, the language was specifically rewritten to include both mothers and fathers (thanks to some praiseworthy lobbying by Fathers and Families, which is run by men’s rights activist Glenn Sacks). As I understand it, the law that was passed was gender-neutral, and included fathers. So what the prison system is doing is ignoring the legislature’s intent.

This is sexism, plain and simple. I don’t doubt that it would cost a little bit more to extend the program to fathers — but keep in mind, every prisoner switched to the “Alternative Custody Program” saves the state money. I strongly suspect that’s what really lacking isn’t resources, but will.

I hope that some imprisoned father sues the California prison system, and soon.

  1. Unfortunately, the program may not last long, since it only applies to people in prisons, and soon California will start putting low-level offenders in jail instead of prison. []
This entry posted in crossposted on TADA, Prisons and Justice and Police, Sexism hurts men. Bookmark the permalink. 

19 Responses to California’s “Alternative Custody Program” Is Sexist Against Men

  1. 1
    mythago says:

    The results are certainly sexist, but I’m guessing the motivation is simply the usual incompetence of the California prison system. “Oh wait, the law says we have to do something? Huh.”

  2. 2
    Emily says:

    primary caretakers of their parents or primary caretakers of their children?

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Of their children. (Although really, they should expand the program to include primary caretakers of any relative who requires care.)

  4. 4
    Elusis says:

    I’m trying to understand why it would cost more to extend it to both men and women, and I’m failing to come up with an answer. Surely men don’t require a substantially different form of ankle monitor or something.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    I’m assuming it has to do with the much greater density of women in prison who committed non-violent crimes and were primary caretakers.

    If I have two barrels of balls and I want to find purple balls; and if one barrel is 50% purple balls and the other barrel is 5% purple balls; then it will be a lot more effort and employee time to find purple balls in the second barrel. All else being equal, it makes sense for me to just look for purple balls in the first barrel.

    So that’s my guess.

  6. 6
    mythago says:

    Plus, if you assume that only the first barrel has purple balls and don’t set up a mechanism to find them in the second barrel, then you have to change the mechanism when you realize you overlooked the second barrel.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    Oh, good point. Thanks, Mythago.

  8. 8
    2ndnin says:

    The second barrel though is at least 11 times larger than the first so even if there were only 9% of male offenders in for non-violent crimes it exceeds the number of female prisoners (2004 data, m:f ratio went between 11:1 and 129:1). The potential percentage of non-violent males is something like 70% depending on sources (non-verifiable).

    So it does look like a hideous oversight really unless men are just stupidly violent.

  9. 9
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Multiple possible explanations–none of which make it any less sexist, though.

    1) the public is sexist. if a woman reoffends/violates probation it’s less likely to raise an outcry. (and it may also be that the predicted reoffenses/violations are generally more acceotable to the public in the first place.)

    2) it’s incredibly cheap to filter. If you can only take a small percentage then you have to decide who it is. If it so happens that the percentage is approximately equal to the %age of women in prison then it saves you a lot of justification. The more complex the choice process, the more expensive it is.

    3) California has one of the worst prison situations in the country. It’s constantly in violation of federal law. Prisons require careful segregatino for obvious reasons–It may be that they need to address overcrowding in a particular low security women’s prison first.

  10. 10
    Schala says:

    Prisons require careful segregatino for obvious reasons–It may be that they need to address overcrowding in a particular low security women’s prison first.

    Reasons that screw over trans and non-binary identifying people.

    I’m all for developing a viable way of maintaining a co-ed system, especially if it means preventing more fights due to more people monitoring, preventing stuff before it all goes to hell and instead of only sending the fight loser to the infirmary, you can prevent it altogether.

    But maybe North American society is too squeamish about co-ed space, but it certainly isn’t a biological thing. Also rape, it’s about power. That’s why male rape occurs a lot in prison. Not because there’s a lot of gay men.

  11. 11
    james says:

    I don’t understand the sudden reluctance to attribute sexist outcomes to sexist intentions.

    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.

    Not much more to say really. The motivation was explicitly sexist from conception: they wanted a discriminatory law, they couldn’t get one because it would be unconstitutional, so they had to pass a neutral law – but then decided to proceed as if they had gotten the discriminatory law they originally envisioned.

  12. 12
    Pierce Harlan says:

    It can’t be denied that, even if applied in a non-sexist manner, the effect of this program likely will benefit far more women than men. That’s not especially troubling. The troubling part is that some men are being denied the right to participate in the program simply because they are men, and that should be a concern to everyone.

    Good for you to raise this.

  13. 13
    Schala says:

    It can’t be denied that, even if applied in a non-sexist manner, the effect of this program likely will benefit far more women than men.

    It originally wasn’t supposed to be for primary caregiver, but simply for non-violent, less than 2 years left to serve crimes. And only for women. But that would have been sexist as james noted above. So they (lawmakers) added primary caregiver and a “there’s more women who are that” provision, to not sound blatantly sexist while still not caring one bit about men.

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  15. 14
    makomk says:

    This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest; there was a fair amount of political will towards a similar exception to custody for women here in the UK, except that it didn’t exactly just apply to non-violent women. Under the plans, while they’d obviously still have to imprison violent women, they wouldn’t call it “prison” or anything like that for political reasons; there appears to have been something politically undesirable about being seen to imprison female murders. Non-violent criminals would just get to skip custody altogether.

    In the end, there wasn’t enough political support. What the government decided to do instead was a kind of watered-down version: women would get smaller, nicer prisons with more opportunities for rehabilitation, men would get massive dehumanizing supermax prisons with few opportunities for rehabilitation.

  16. 15
    Darque says:

    I know why they thought it’d be more costly to find men. They’d have to write a programmer to modify one line of a SQL query:

    Select * from Prisoners where PrimaryCaretaker = 1 and NonViolent = 1 and Gender = ‘F’

    Or god forbid, they’d have to do a table join. LOL, that’s just too difficult!

  17. 16
    Rachel says:

    Glenn Sacks did something helpful. I’ll be damned. #stoppedclocks

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