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Booker Applauds New Jersey Assembly Passage of Dignity Act

May 24, 2019
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NEWARK, N.J. -- U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) issued the below statement applauding today's passage of the Dignity for Incarcerated Primary Caretaker Parents Act in the New Jersey Assembly. The bill that passed today is based upon a federal bill Booker originally introduced in 2017, and reintroduced this session of Congress last month. "Today's passage of the Dignity Act means we're one step closer to making sure that women behind bars in New Jersey are treated decently and humanely. Women face unique circumstances behind bars -- a majority of them are victims of trauma or abuse, and roughly two-thirds are mothers. Our current system doesn't take into account many of these important factors, but the Dignity Act would help fix this by making a series of common-sense changes to lessen the negative impact incarceration has on women and their families, and better prepare incarcerated women to return to their communities." The federal Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act would make it easier for women behind bars to keep in touch with their families and provide better trauma-informed care for women behind bars, and mandate that basic hygiene products be provided to all women behind bars free of charge. After introducing the bill in 2017, Booker was instrumental in getting three of the bill's provisions -- to effectively ban the shackling of pregnant women, require incarcerated individuals be placed within 500 miles of the nearest family member, and provide tampons and pads to all women behind bars free of charge -- in a larger criminal justice package that was signed into law in December 2018, the First Step Act. In addition to New Jersey, 12 state legislatures have passed or introduced some version of the bill. Specifically, the federal Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act would do the following: Visitation: Require BOP to create better visitation policies for primary caretaker parents. 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. 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 soap, shampoo, body lotion, Vaseline, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and aspirin/ibuprofen 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.