A Sonoma County judge has ruled against an inmate who says she is the victim of gender discrimination because of policies that prohibit women from serving their jail time in the less-restrictive honor farm.
Judge Dana Simonds found conditions at the high-security main adult detention center where Charr Treadway, 42, is completing a four-year sentence for theft and drug convictions are similar to those at the north county facility.
Simonds said that because out-of-cell privileges, visitation policies and access to outdoor activities and classes are roughly the same at the two locations, Treadway’s equal protection rights are not being violated.
Also, Simonds ruled a 1984 court order requiring women to be placed at the honor farm was not enforceable, in part because a new jail was constructed in 1991 that eliminated many concerns.
Her 24-page decision, issued earlier this month, was met with a sense of vindication and relief from jail officials, who faced the expense of opening the all-male honor farm to female inmates.
“We think we do a good job,” Randall Walker, the county’s assistant sheriff in charge of adult detention, said Friday. “Anybody who has ever inspected our facilities has said the same thing. It’s clean, safe and we have great programs for both men and women.”
Treadway’s lawyer, Walt Risse, maintained men and women were not receiving equal treatment. He said a ruling in his favor could have changed that.
“It’s disappointing,” he said Friday.
The north county facility was limited to men in 2010 as part of a cost-cutting measure. All women, regardless of security classification, were moved to segregated modules at the main jail, which also houses medium- and maximum-security male inmates.
Treadway, a minimum- security inmate, complained that jail policy required her to be confined to her cell for all but 30 minutes a day. Visits with family members and the ability to go outside were among the things she said were unfairly limited.
By contrast, she said north county inmates lived in dormitory-style housing and enjoyed more freedom.
She filed a legal writ, asking to be moved or be released from custody. She sought compensation of $5,000 a day, retroactive to the first day of her incarceration in the main jail.
Both sides appeared before Simonds, who heard hours of testimony and inspected both facilities.
Among other things, she found women inmates at the main jail averaged 7 to 10 hours out of their cells each day, while male counterparts at the honor farm also faced restrictions on their movement.
Both groups had similar meal and bedtime schedules and women were allowed visitors three times a week, compared to as few as one visit a week for the men.
Also, Simonds found dorm-style housing was not necessarily a benefit because it was less private. She said a number of women inmates preferred to be at the main jail.
“Equal protection principles would not tolerate a system where one gender is housed in a very comfortable setting while the other gender is relegated to a dungeon,” Simonds wrote in her July 10 ruling. “However, that is not the situation here.”
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ppayne.