Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reentry: Felons Cannot be Categorically Excluded as Caregivers

The Chron reports:

An Alameda County judge blocked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday from excluding convicted felons and shoplifters from providing in-home care in a program that serves 430,000 low-income elderly and disabled Californians.

Superior Court Judge David Hunter had ruled in February that Schwarzenegger's action was illegal because state law bars workers from the program for 10 years only if they have been convicted of child abuse, elder abuse or defrauding Medi-Cal or any patient.

In-home patients, who have access to their caregivers' criminal records, can otherwise employ anyone they want, the judge said.

Schwarzenegger, acting by executive order, is seeking to bar from the program anyone ever convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors, which include shoplifting. After appealing Hunter's ruling in May, the governor had planned to implement his restrictions later this week.
The state's appeal automatically suspended Hunter's decision but allowed the judge to reinstate it if he concluded that the new limits on caregivers would cause irreparable harm. Hunter made that finding Tuesday, saying both caregivers and their patients would suffer if the governor's rules took effect during his appeal.

I find this report fascinating, because it is a reminder of the mistakes we make when we engage in the "othering" of crime. To people in need of caregiving, convicted felons are not necessarily the "other". They are their parents, siblings and close friends. Attention to these relationships--which surely are not uncommon given the large percentage of Californians who have been convicted and spent time behind bars--is important.

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