Sunday, June 5, 2011

Women's Institutions: Health Issues and Overcrowding

This weekend's Huffington Post featured an extremely distressing story about California's women institutions and the health and sanitation conditions in them.

The Human Rights Council report cited in the post provides some further distressing information but fails to properly state which of the facts relate to California prisons and which relate to federal facilities or those in other state. It seems like the particularly horrifying report about male staff members incurring sexual favors in exchange for providing basic sanitation products is from a 2009 report on federal inmates.

Here, however, is the bit that clearly identifies California inmates and institutions:

A number of additional challenges often result in tension and conflict among inmates and with prison staff. These include inadequate access to basic hygiene products, the high costs of telephone calls and, the inadequacy and sufficiency of the food served. This was a particular concern at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) where interlocutors pointed out persistent deficiencies in terms of services and the hostility with which some guards respond to inmates. These challenges are further intensified by the overcrowding in the facility which was designed to hold 2,004 inmates but currently holds 3,686 people.

I wonder - nowhere in Brown v. Plata does the decision explicitly limit itself to men's institutions. The number of inmates, I believe, is an assessment of ALL state institutions, not just men's prisons. This week's population report indicates that, at 168.9% capacity, women's institutions suffer from an overcrowding problem that also exceeds the 137.5% established by Plata. I assume, therefore, that the population reduction will include these three facilities, and particularly CCWF, which is at 185.7% capacity.

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