Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County Jails Lack Treatment, Services for Female Inmates: Report

A new report finds Santa Clara County's jails have a troubling gender gap with a huge lack of treatment and services for female inmates.

The report, which comes from the Office of Womens' Policy in Santa Clara County, warns the criminal justice system is in crisis because of the gender gap.

"I think the system is build around the needs of violent male offenders," said Esther Peralez-Dieckmann with the Office of Women's Policy.

The report will head to a county committee next week.

Sources tell NBC Bay Area the report shows women inmates are not getting proper sanitary supplies.

The inmates are offered gender-based vocational programs like knitting, crocheting and cooking skills many believe do not translate in the real world. In addition, pregnant women are allegedly handcuffed during labor.

"When you say justice is blind, it's just not true. We're actually failing women if we're not using a gender lens," said Carla Collins with the Office of Women's Policy.

The women groups said the problem is not exclusive to Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas, and praise the staff there. The groups call the issue a systemic problem statewide.

The women's jail commander at Elmwood said she already works closely with the report's authors.

"I really want to give them the tools to flourish," Lt. Adrianne Etheridge said.

But not everyone is critical.

Inmate Laura Schuster, who has graduated from many programs at Elmwood, thinks the jail turned her life around. She said the jail programs have given her what she needs to make sure once she is out, she stays out of jail.

"My education is isn't stopping when I leave here," Schuster said. "My education is continuing out there so I don't come back and stop wasting my time."

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