California's Gov. Schwarzenegger wants to reshape approach to women prisoners

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed moving 40 percent of the state's nonviolent female inmates into neighborhood correctional centers, a plan that could help ease the state's severely overcrowded penitentiaries.

The plan, buried in the governor's proposed state budget, would allow about 4,500 female inmates to live closer to their families and get job training and drug and alcohol counseling. Some prisoners would be allowed to have their children live with them.

Most of the governor's plan requires legislative approval. Officials acknowledge that some neighborhood residents may be alarmed and that the powerful guards union long opposed to prison privatization is likely to resist.

Several lawmakers have pledged to back the proposal.

"The overwhelming majority of women in prison are in for low-level crimes that do not require the sort of expensive, high-security setting we're providing them," said Democratic Assemblywoman Sally Lieber.

The state now houses 11,400 women inmates, almost twice the 1990 level. About 66 percent are serving time for nonviolent crimes, reports AP.


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