An inmate at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla speaks to advisors during the process of applying for early release through a new program meant to reduce crowding. Photo Julie Small/KPCC
This is a benchmark day for California prisons. A federal court order requires the state to reduce its prison population by 10,000 inmates. The first progress report is due today.
Most of the 10,000 were low-level offenders shifted to California counties. But a small number were the result of a new law that allows some women inmates serve the last two years of their sentences under home detention. Only 20 women are in the program now, but the state is aiming to expand that quickly.
At Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, a handful of low-level offenders will be spending the final years of their sentences at home.
Twenty-three year-old Crystal Farfan is serving a two-year sentence for stealing cars. She did the first nine months at Valley State Prison for Women. She’ll do the rest at her mom’s home in Los Angeles, where she’ll reunite with her son and daughter. Crystal has to take parenting classes, go to school or get a job, stay in at night and get drug treatment. She says her “co-defendant” – her ex-boyfriend – encouraged her addiction. He’s in prison, too.
“My daughter’s dad was 17 years older than me and he used to beat me up and had me drugged up pretty good,” says Farfan. “And I feel like this experience, coming to prison has really changed me. I’m really grateful for this ACP program, you know, because I think I’d go crazy if I had to stay here a little bit longer. ”
Different Gateways, Alternative Exits
California’s Alternative Custody Program (ACP) allows women convicted of non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual offenses to serve the last two years of their sentences at home. Parole agents use GPS monitoring devices to keep track of where they are.
Velda Dobson-Davis, the Chief Deputy Warden at Valley State Prison for Women, helped develop the Alternative Custody Program. She rallied a crowd at the prison gymnasium earlier this month to get more women to apply for the program.
“This is for persons to do their time. To do their time. Y’all hearing me?” she told her audience. “To do your time. So that means you’re still doing your what?”
“Time,” her crowd responds.
“So we’re not getting out of prison early,” she said. This is a virtual prison in your residence”
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