The state of California enacted Assembly Bills 109 & 117 in order to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court mandate passed in May 2011 that ordered the State of California to alleviate overcrowding in all 33 prisons, which became known as the California Public Safety Realignment (PRS) (Heidemann, 2013)( Carson & Golinelli, 2013). As these bills were implemented, California noted the largest decline in overall U.S. prison population with a steady decline by yearend 2012 of about 10% when compared to yearend 2011 (Carson & Golinelli, 2013). Moreover, there was a 25% decrease of the female prisoner population over the same timeframe; hence, the emphasis on the female ex-offender population (Carson & Golinelli, 2013). However, the State of California lacks resources, primarily those that focus on providing recently released women with job-training skills, housing, rehabilitation, reunification, and government aid to assist them with a successful reentry back into society.
Women that have been released as a result of AB 109 & 117 seem to face many obstacles; the risk of death for recently released ex-offenders is 3.5 times greater than for the general U.S. population (Heidemann, 2013). The leading causes of death for recently released women include the following: drug overdose, heart disease, homicide, and suicide (Binswanger, Stern, Deyo, Heagerty, Cheadle, Elmore, & Koepsell, 2007) (Heidemann, 2013). The importance of having a stable, supportive, and healthy home/housing environment is critical for successful reentry of recently released inmates (Heidemann, 2013).
The grand challenge aims to eliminate the cycling of women in and out or prison, due to a lack of the aforementioned resources, which include health, mental health, stable housing and employment, along with addressing their human potential through a substantial increase of reentry programs. There is qualitative research that supports the pivotal role that reentry programs play in women’s successful reentry. However, there is much more work needed to be done in the prisoner reentry field in order to develop reentry programs that meet the basic needs of women being released.
By eliminating the recycling of women in and out of prison, the world would have a significantly lower rate of foster children because mothers would be able to care for their children rather than having to give them up due to recidivism; women would learn positive parenting skills and develop strong and healthy attachments with their children. Our communities would have no need for reentry programs, and it could use reentry funds for job-training skills, education, vocational training, and promotion of a woman’s self-worth through empowerment workshops.
Binswanger, Stern, M., Deyo, R., Heagerty, PJ. , Cheadle, A., Elmore, J.G., & Koepsell, T.D. (2007). Release from Prison — A High Risk of Death for Former Inmates. The New England Journal of Medicine, 356, 157-165. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa064115
Heidemann, G. (2013). Successful reentry among formerly incarcerated women: A mixed methods analysis.(Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1400482382?accountid=14749. (1400482382).
Carson, E.A. & Golinelli, D. (2013) Prisoners in 2012- Advance Counts. Washington, D.C.: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.