San Francisco – July 16, 2015 – Lawyers for two male prisoners have filed a federal lawsuit in the Northern District of California challenging California’s blanket exclusion of male prisoners from the Alternative Custody Program (“ACP”).   

The ACP, as described by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”), is “a community-based program aimed at reuniting low-level offenders with their families and providing inmates with rehabilitative services within the community.” Prisoners who have a current conviction for a serious or violent felony, or a current or prior sex offense conviction, are ineligible for the program. ACP participants can return to their loved ones, live at a private residence, obtain employment, and attend rehabilitation programs. As of November 2014, over 400 women had been allowed to participate in the ACP.

Plaintiffs Michael Berman and Darrell Stapp are male prisoners currently incarcerated at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, California. Mr. Berman has a young daughter, with whom he shared caregiving responsibilities with his wife prior to his incarceration. He wants to participate in the ACP so that he can reunite with and provide support to his family. Mr. Stapp has an elderly mother with health issues, and wants to become an ACP participant so that he can live with and care for her.

CDCR rejected Mr. Berman and Mr. Stapp from participating in the program for no other reason than that they are male. Both men request the Court to issue a preliminary injunction prohibiting Defendants from excluding them and other men from the program solely because of their sex. A similar suit, Sassman v. Brown, Case No. 2:14-cv-01679 (U.S. District Court, E.D. Cal.), is currently pending in federal court in Sacramento.  More information about the Sassman case is included in an earlier post: Federal Lawsuit Challenging Exclusion of Male Prisoners from California’s Alternative Custody Program to Move Ahead

“It is hard to believe that in 2015 the State of California is operating a facially discriminatory program that perpetuates the outdated stereotype that only women can be caregivers. Our clients meet the stringent criteria of this program except for their gender. The Governor and CDCR should stop defending their discriminatory law and let qualified men participate in the ACP,” said Gay Grunfeld of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, counsel for plaintiffs. “Defendants’ policies de-legitimize the role that men play in their families and harm children by preventing them from re-uniting with their fathers. Excluding qualified men from the ACP also contributes to California’s longstanding overcrowding crisis.”

The case is Berman v. Brown, Case No. 5:15-cv-03282 (U.S. District Court, N.D. Cal.). Copies of recently filed court docs are available here: Berman Stapp Complaint for Injunctive Relief, 07-14-15 and Berman Stapp Plaintiffs’ Motion For Preliminary Injunction

 Contact:

Gay Grunfeld, Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, (415) 433-6830, ggrunfeld@rbgg.com

Selected Media Coverage

California Bars Male Inmates from Program, Courthouse News Service, July 17, 2015