California Prisons See Drop in Female Inmates; Officials Attribute Decline to Proposition 36
The number of female inmates in California prisons fell 10% last year, a decline that corrections officials attribute in large part to Proposition 36, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports. The voter-approved ballot measure that sends nonviolent first- and second-time drug offenders to treatment rather than prison took effect last July. According to Department of Corrections statistics, the number of female inmates dropped by between 8% and 11% over the past year. Currently, fewer than 10,000 women are incarcerated in state prisons. Of that number, more than 40% have drug convictions. The number of male prisoners with drug convictions also is dropping, but the statistics indicate that men are "far less likely to be convicted solely of drug-related charges." Only 26% of male prisoners are jailed for such offenses. The number of male prisoners decreased by between 1% and 2% in 2001. Department of Corrections spokesperson Margot Bach said, "There are a lot of reasons the population is down -- crime rates have fallen, parole programs are working -- but we think the biggest factor with the women's numbers is Proposition 36." However, some criminal experts note that state incarceration rates began falling in January 2000, well before Proposition 36 was implemented. They say that it will be several years before the effect of the drug treatment initiative can be measured (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.