San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Johnson was interviewed by the Huffington Post regarding The Road Forward fundraiser being held tomorrow October 26 (Excerpt Below). All are invited to attend this event that is in support of women working to get their lives back. For more details about the event, please see invitation.
Author: Arcelia Hurtado
"Jennifer Johnson has been working with San Francisco's mental health court to provide gender specific services for women since 2005. She is a founding member of San Francisco's Behavioral Health Court and one of the organizers of The Road Forward, a fundraiser to benefit women as they transition out of custody and into the community.
Arcelia Hurtado (AH): Tell us what is going on in California with incarcerated women.
Jennifer Johnson (JJ): In times of economic prosperity, women in jails and prisons are an underserved population. In times of economic despair, they are forgotten. California is currently embarking on the biggest shift in criminal justice policy in decades as it enacts AB109, known as "realignment." The stakes are high and the opportunity is unprecedented as communities craft new approaches to incarceration and rehabilitation.
AH: What is The Road Forward?
JJ: The Road Forward is raising money to renovate the San Francisco Sheriff's Department's Women's Resource Center to create an optimal environment for helping women reclaim their lives.
Two community programs, Behavioral Health Court and the Women's Resource Center, are working together to ensure that women are not lost as the realignment process unfolds. Both programs have independently provided quality gender-specific treatment for years and they are joining forces streamline and enhance those services.
The October 26th event marks the beginning of a capital fundraising campaign and we have great allies in this effort: Equal Rights Advocates, California Pacific Medical Center, and Women Defenders of California.
AH: What do you mean when you say "helping women reclaim their lives?"
JJ: The Women's Resource Center serves women who are leaving jail and prison. The Center provides access to an array of coordinated services to help women find employment, sustain recovery, improve mental health, link to quality health care, and reconnect with their families and the community.
These services are going to become increasingly important as we see dramatic changes in criminal justice policy take effect across California.
AH: What are the changes?
JJ: There are two big changes that will result in an increase in the number of women who come into the community from either jail or prison.
First, the United States Supreme Court is forcing the state to release tens of thousands of inmates because the overcrowded conditions amount to cruel and unusual punishment. One of the state's proposals to address the situation is to allow more than 4,000 mothers serving time in state prison to return to the community.
Second, a recent change in California law will increase the number of women released from jail. AB109, or "realignment," will shift the responsibility for housing and supervising low-risk, non-violent offenders from the state to individual counties. What this means is that women who would have gone to state prison will now serve local sentences and remain on county probation."
Read the entire post here.