July 11, 2017

Senators Harris, Booker, Warren, Durbin Introduce Landmark Bill to Reform the Way Women Are Treated Behind Bars

Women are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. prison population

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris, Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Richard Durbin (D-IL) today introduced a landmark bill to reform the way women are treated behind bars. This bill comes on the heels of Senator Harris’ visit to the Central California Women’s (CCWF) facility in Chowchilla, California – the largest female correctional facility in the United States. At the facility, Senator Harris was briefed on the unique conditions and needs of incarcerated women and discussed some of the common issues impacting women caught in our criminal justice system.

The Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act would make a series of common-sense reforms to how the federal prison system treats incarcerated women in order to reduce the negative impact incarceration has on the family members of women behind bars, especially their children, and better prepare incarcerated women to return to their communities.

“The drastic increase in the women’s prison population has destroyed communities, torn families apart and done little to promote public safety,” Senator Harris said. “It has also had a deep impact on children. In order to create lasting improvements to public safety we have a responsibility to not only reunite women inmates with their families, but to also support the rehabilitation and re-entry of these women inmates into society. In doing so, we must improve the environment in prisons to ensure they are able to maintain a level of dignity and respect.”

Specifically, the Dignity for Incarcerated Women would do the following:

Visitation

  • Require the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to consider location of kids when placing incarcerated persons in prison facilities.
  • Require BOP to create better visitation policies for primary caretaker parents.

Treatment

  • Prohibit the solitary confinement of pregnant women.
  • Ban the shackling of pregnant women.

Programming

  • Require BOP to provide parenting classes to primary caretaker parents.
  • Mandate BOP provide trauma informed care to individuals who are primary caretaker parents and train correctional officers on how to handle victims of trauma.
  • Allow returning citizens to mentor current incarcerated people and assist with reentry.

Oversight

  • Create an ombudsman at the Justice Department to monitor certain violations in prisons.

Telecommunications

  • Prohibit BOP from charging incarcerated persons for phone calls.
  • Require BOP to make video-conferencing available at every facility free of charge.

Health

  • Require BOP to provide certain health products, such as tampons and pads, free of charge to incarcerated people.
  • Restrict BOP employees from entering restrooms of incarcerated individuals of the opposite sex except in exigent circumstances.
  • Allow all pregnant women and primary caretaker parents to enroll in the Residential Drug Abuse Program.

Overnight Visit Pilot Program

  • Require BOP to create an overnight visit pilot program for children and parents. 

 

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