CNN Op-Ed: Booker and Warren: Women in prison deserve dignity
In discussions of prison reform, one group is nearly always overlooked: women. Women are the fastest growing segment of America's prison population, but because they are typically not the first image that comes to mind when someone thinks of an incarcerated person, they are often afterthoughts in policy discussions about ways to fix our broken system.
In July, we introduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, a bill that would help address the unjust conditions incarcerated women face. The bill would institute a number of reforms that strengthen family ties and support rehabilitation, including requiring the Federal Bureau of Prisons to consider the location of children when placing mothers behind bars, expanding visitation policies for primary caretakers, banning shackling and solitary confinement for pregnant women, and prohibiting prisons from charging for essential health care items, such as tampons and pads.
By treating incarcerated women with dignity and giving them basic support, we not only improve public safety and reduce recidivism, we live out our values, making our criminal justice system more just.
In prison, many women find themselves without the tools and support necessary to deal with their traumas or recover from addiction. Prison staff are not sufficiently trained to interact with women who have suffered trauma, and many prisons lack the programs and resources to help women successfully address these issues.
It's time to change that picture.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons recently decided to provide sanitary products to female inmates free of charge - implementing one of the reforms called for in the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act - but much more needs to be done. There is a growing consensus among Americans that our criminal justice system is deeply broken and in need of real, drastic change. State governments in red, blue and purple states have led the way in the reform effort, showing that it's possible to reduce crime and prison rates simultaneously. It's time for the federal government to do the same. Basic dignity for incarcerated women is a good place to start.
Read the full Op-Ed on CNN's website here.
By: Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker
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