WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) today introduced a landmark bill to reform the way women are treated behind bars.
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.
“For too long issues affecting women have been left out of the conversation about prison reform - that ends today,” Senator Booker said. “A majority of women behind bars are mothers and nearly three-quarters have been the victims of trauma or abuse. We must take these circumstances into account when we place women in prison facilities. That means common-sense changes such as considering where an incarcerated mother’s kids live when assigning a prison location, providing phone calls to home free of charge for primary caretakers, and banning the shackling and solitary confinement of pregnant women.”
“The Dignity for Women Act starts to change our country’s approach to helping women in prison. It’s about living up to our nation’s commitment that every person is treated with dignity and has a real opportunity to build a future,” Senator Warren said. “This legislation will help ensure that incarcerated women have the tools, resources, and services they need to maintain and strengthen ties to their families and to go back into their communities with the skills they need to be successful.”
"Incarcerated women face unique challenges and therefore deserve specific protections while they serve out their sentences,” Senator Durbin said. “I have long pushed for an end to solitary confinement and shackling of pregnant women. These practices are severe and lead to serious, long-lasting harm. I’m proud to see these measures included in the legislation and will continue working with my colleagues to enact smart, fair reforms to our justice system.”
“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. “This 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:
· Prohibit BOP from charging incarcerated persons for phone calls.
· Require BOP to make video-conferencing available at every facility free of charge.
Overnight Visit Pilot Program