Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Now that the more important holiday is over...

Green Bay removed its controversial nativity scene from the roof of City Hall today, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation is going ahead with their lawsuit against the city. I've written about this quite a bit already (here and here), but I'll add that I'm glad the FFRF is keeping up the good fight. The mayor's lame excuse for prohibiting all other symbols but the nativity was that they didn't have any rules in place for dealing with that kind of thing, so now would be their chance, with the help of the FFRF, to get it right.

Of course, taking the creche down today was no big concession on their part. Their party's over.

In other news, this interesting tidbit just came out of La Crosse county:

LA CROSSE -- Sometime next year, La Crosse County might let all its female prisoners out of jail.

Instead of sitting behind bars, the women will be in a new community-based program the La Crosse County Board unanimously approved last week.

The board awarded a $250,000 contract to the YWCA to run the program, starting in February.

About 20 to 25 women are in the jail at any one time, supervised around the clock by two jailers at a cost of $420,000 a year, plus other operating expenses.

About 15 of those women would go on electronic home monitoring and into job counseling, literacy training and other programs through the YWCA, said Supervisor Jill Billings. "It 's a better way than locking them up. "

Later next year, the county will lease or buy a halfway house in La Crosse where up to 10 women will live. Those women also would be on electronic home monitoring and in YWCA programming, though they will not be supervised around the clock.

With the women 's jail empty, some male prisoners could temporarily be moved there while cell blocks in the men 's jail are remodeled for the few women who need to be jailed, said County Administrator Steve O 'Malley.

Some supervisors questioned how the county could possibly go without a jail for women.

Supervisor Keith Belzer, a criminal defense attorney, said in 15 years he 's never represented a woman who was put in jail because she 's dangerous.

"I 'm not saying there won 't ever be a woman in La Crosse County who 's dangerous and needs to be locked up for the safety of the community, " said Belzer. "I will say that would be the rare exception rather than the rule. "

Belzer said women are almost always in the system "because of some kind of relationship with a man. "

Getting those women treatment and help will cut recidivism, he said.

This sounds like a great program, and more of the kind of rehabilitation-instead-of-plain-incarceration that we need in our correctional system. There's an irritating vein of sexism inherent in the article itself (Belzer's statements, specifically), but beyond that I wish them all the best and hope that this sort of program becomes more widespread.

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