The California Department of Corrections agreed Friday to let three more state prisoners live with their young children in special "community treatment" facilities.
Corrections officials agreed to transfer the women to the special facilities after the state conceded that most of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state qualify for the program, said Rebecca Jurado, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
The announcement came at a Superior Court hearing of a lawsuit filed earlier this month on behalf of the inmates by the ACLU of Southern California, the ACLU of Northern California and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, a San Francisco-based group.
According to Jurado, William Prahl, a deputy attorney general, told Judge James T. Ford that seven of eight plaintiffs--all mothers and mothers-to-be imprisoned at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco and the California Institution for Women in Frontera--are eligible for transfer to facilities where they can live with, and care for, their children.
No New Order Issued
Prahl could not be reached for comment, but Sigrid Bathen, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, and Les Johnson, a spokesman for the Corrections Department, both confirmed that the department had agreed to expedite its processing of the plaintiffs' applications and that no new order had been issued in the case.
"It's wonderful," Jurado said. "We're very happy that these women who have waited so long to get into this program are going to get to spend the time they have left in their sentences reunited with their families, their children. . . .
"What we do hope comes out of this is an internal investigation by the department and by both institutions to determine what the program requires and what their regulations require . . . and get the program on track."
Judge Ford had previously ordered the Corrections Department to admit four of the plaintiffs--three of them then-pregnant and one who had just given birth--to the facilities, which are mandated by state law to allow infants and children under 6 years old to live with their incarcerated mothers.
Arlisa Gloster and Christina Cortez have already moved in with their newborns at Brandon House in San Jose, Jurado said. Two other women involved in the lawsuit, Sheila Narcisse and Dianna Marvaino, are scheduled for transfer to Brandon House or to similar facilities in Los Angeles or San Diego as soon as they give birth and are released from the hospital.
The three plaintiffs affected by yesterday's announcement are Annette Rios, who was moved Thursday night to the House of Uhuru in Los Angeles; Harriet Davis, who was sent Friday to Brandon House, and Joanne Thomas, who also expects to move to the San Jose facility.
The eighth plaintiff, Deborah Crisp, must reapply for placement, Jurado said, because her application has been lost.
Applying Improper Criteria
A hearing has yet to be scheduled on the lawsuit's claim that the Corrections Department has been illegally denying prisoners access to the program by failing to notify them of their right to live with their children, by making application to the program difficult and by applying improper criteria in rejecting applicants.
But Prahl did tell the judge Friday that prisoners' placement in the program cannot be limited to facilities in their home county, Jurado said.
One of the plaintiffs, Rios, said in an interview that prison officials had told her she would not be accepted in the program because there was no appropriate facility in Fresno County. The lawsuit claims that such policies deny women prisoners the "equal protection under law" guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.