Recently, a federal judge ruled in favor of Theresa A. Victory, an inmate at Berks County Prison represented by our nonprofit partner Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project. Victory filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Berks County on grounds that women on work release were treated vastly different from their male counterparts.
Male inmates with work release status housed in the reentry center are allowed 13 hours outside of their cell, no lock on their cells in the evening, and direct access to programs at the Berks County Re-entry Center. According to Victory, women on work release were unfairly confined to prison cells, despite paying the same amount for the program as their male counterparts: $200 a month from their wages. At the re-entry center, there are services that help inmates find work, spend less time in their cells, have access to laundry, and take furloughs, which female inmates who are housed at the prison do not have access to.
The lawsuit also alleges that correctional officers at the prison threatened to punish Victory for filing complaints against them. U.S. District Judge Mark A. Kearney ordered that the county must provide Victory and other female inmates the same liberties immediately, but County Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt, chairman of the prison board, said county officials still need to review the decision.