We did it. After years of work from the ACLU of California and our allies, dangerous shackles and restraints can no longer be used on pregnant women in our state’s prisons and jails. Last week Governor Brown signed AB 2530, authored by Assemblymember Atkins, after it passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support.
For 25 years, the ACLU has been a forceful advocate to end discrimination against prisoners living with HIV. We've worked to end their segregation from the rest of the prison population and ensure they are afforded access to vital services and programs.
Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is a popular definition of insanity. Those of us across the country trying repeatedly to pass bills that would prohibit the shackling of pregnant women in jails and prisons are hardly insane. Dedicated? Yes. Stubborn? Possibly. Unwilling to accept women suffering? Absolutely.
This year marks the third attempt to get a signature on a bipartisan, unanimously supported bill in California (AB 2530) that would ban the practice of putting incarcerated pregnant women in dangerous shackles. Similar bills have passed two previous legislative sessions with overwhelming support from both political parties, only to be vetoed. Opposition from the powerful law enforcement lobby surely played a role in these vetoes. But we have persevered, and this year we’ve been successful in keeping law enforcement neutral. While we’re happy with this progress, we still need the Governor to sign the bill.
By Amy Fettig, ACLU National Prison Project at 4:30pm
Why are the Feds spending $250 million in taxpayer dollars to build an unnecessary and counter-productive prison for women in rural Aliceville, Alabama?
As the New York Times pointed out recently, most women in federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) custody are incarcerated for non-violent offenses; over half of them have minor children. Many of these women do not need to be incarcerated in order to protect public safety. Locking them up hundreds of miles away from their families, children and communities is exactly the wrong step to take if we want them to re-enter society successfully. Decades of research demonstrates the success of policies that keep prisoners near their homes – and for women especially, concern for their children is most often cited as a prime motivator for successful rehabilitation.
By Amy Fettig, ACLU National Prison Project at 5:52pm
Every year in the United States babies are born to women who are literally in chains – shackled to their delivery beds even in the act of labor. Thankfully, there is hope that this long-hidden and terrible practice – and the legacy of pain, humiliation and harm its causes mothers and children – will soon be eradicated from jails, prisons and detention centers across the country.
Today the Department of Justice released the long-awaited Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations, representing the first time that the federal government has issued national standards to help end sexual abuse in correctional facilities. The regulations are two years late and a lot of harm has been done in their absence, but now that they’ve finally been released they can help us protect important constitutional and human rights and ensure safe and fair correctional facilities that assist prisoners in rehabilitation rather than needlessly brutalizing them. The ACLU supports the Department’s efforts to protect and prevent sexual abuse in places of detention, although we regret that immigration facilities are not yet included in these standards.
Earlier this year, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest for-profit incarceration company in America, sent a letter to officials in 48 states offering to buy state prisons and run them for a profit. We're still waiting to hear what most states will do with the offer.
Sure, at first blush, an injection of CCA money into government coffers might seem attractive to cash-strapped states. But here's the rub: states would be paying CCA for this short-term cash infusion with the liberties and freedoms of their citizens. For the corporation to buy a prison, a state would have to agree to keep it 90 percent full and CCA-operated for at least 20 years.
In 2009, Claudia Leiva Deras, a domestic violence survivor who is now a lawful U.S. resident, was held in immigration detention at the Cass County Jail in Plattsmouth, Neb. While Claudia waited there for the outcome of her immigration hearing, she faced months of brutality at the hands of a fellow detainee. Claudia was hit, kicked and choked daily. She was also sexually assaulted and left bleeding, with no one to turn to for help.
In the past 25 years, the number of women and girls caught up in the criminal justice system has skyrocketed. Many have been swept up in the War on Drugs and subject to punitive sentencing policies for nonviolent offenses.
In Pennsylvania, thousands of woman cycle through the county jail system every year. Unfortunately, the county prisons that house these women — 57 in total — have been slow to adapt to the changing demographics of their prisoners. As a result, the unique health care needs of women have been largely ignored, leaving the health of this vulnerable population at risk.