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Words From Prison - What You Can Do

Document Date: June 14, 2006

IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE GIRLS GROW UP WITHOUT VIOLENCE

  • Tutor an at-risk girl and help open a door of opportunity.
  • Volunteer with or donate to a program for court-involved girls. For instance, the Center for Community Alternatives trains volunteer mentors in Syracuse who are matched with girls and boys to help them gain life skills and build self esteem. For more information visit www.communityalternatives.org
  • Join the Correctional Association of New York’s Juvenile Justice Coalition and become a part of efforts to improve the state’s juvenile justice system. Learn more at www.correctionalassociation.org
  • Protest the New York City Department of Probation’s recent decision to close its Alternative to Detention (ATD) program for juveniles without a replacement plan in place. Support Community Corrections, an ATD program implemented to fill that gap.
  • Learn more about the importance of school in keeping girls from entering the juvenile justice system and read more to learn about the school to prison pipeline. Visit www.aclu.org/crimjustice/juv24704res20060321.html for more information.
  • Volunteer with Girls’ Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS). www.gems-girls.org
  • Support The After-School Corporation (TASC) which enriches the lives of thousands of young people, including those at risk of getting caught up in the criminal and juvenile justice system. www.tascorp.org
  • Contact your legislators to support the New York State bill, A-11365, that would prohibit the prosecution of persons under 18 for prostitution and would create a range of community services to help young people recover from the trauma of sexual exploitation.
  • Write to your legislator or write a letter to the editor in support of policies and bills that promote deinstitutionalization of children and protect the rights of those children who are imprisoned.

IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE EVERYONE GETS A SECOND CHANCE

  • Learn more about and support local judicial efforts to redirect first-time non-violent drug offenders into drug treatment programs rather than prison. Volunteer with or donate to organizations that provide drug rehabilitation services to drug offenders, such as the Center for Community Alternatives in New York, www.communityalternatives.org.
  • Learn more about the barriers formerly incarcerated women face when they leave prison and what advocates can do to remove these barriers at the Women’s Prison Association’s website, www.wpaonline.org. The Women’s Prison Association takes a dual approach to the issues facing criminal-justice involved women, combining a commitment to providing one-on-one direct services with a commitment to effecting changes in practice and policy through the Institute on Women & Criminal Justice. Also visit www.reentry.net.
  • Become a mentor to a woman leaving prison and reentering her community by volunteering with the Women’s Prison Association’s WomenCare program: www.wpaonline.org.
  • Volunteer with ReConnect, a leadership training program for formerly incarcerated women, coordinated by the Women in Prison Project of the Correctional Association of New York. For more information, visit www.correctionalassociation.org.
  • In New York, employers cannot reject job applicants based on a criminal conviction unless there is a direct relationship between that conviction and the job in question, or unless hiring the applicant would pose an unreasonable risk to the safety of people or property. Is your employer abiding by this law? How can your workplace help formerly incarcerated women begin again?
  • Write to your representatives in Congress to support the Second Chance Act, H.R. 1704, a federal law that would give states the flexibility to develop a range of prisoner reentry programs to fit their circumstances.
  • Write to your state legislators to support laws like California’s Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, which allocated $120 million per year to the redirection of first-time non-violent drug offenders into drug treatment programs rather than prison. So far, over 50,000 drug offenders have participated in drug treatment, the majority of whom are doing so for the first time in their lives. Such treatment is far more cost effective than imprisonment. The estimated savings for California taxpayers is approximately $1.5 billion over five and half years.
  • Learn more about and support drug treatment programs that are specifically designed to help women overcome their drug abuse and that address the specific reasons that many women turn to drugs. The Crossroads program for women, operated by the Center for Community Alternatives in New York City, is a successful example of one such program. To learn more visit: www.communityalternatives.org/programs/drug/crossroads.html
  • Read more about the harmful ways in which drug policies impact women and families and steps you can take to change these policies in the ACLU’s Caught in the Net, available at www.aclu.org/womensrights and www.fairlaws4families.org/

IMAGINE A WORLD WITH FAIR SENTENCING POLICIES

  • Support the New York state legislative bill A-8098. The bill seeks to expand drug treatment for nonviolent offenders and increase judicial discretion in sentencing first and second-time drug offenders to treatment and probation instead of prison. Go to www.drugpolicy.org for more information.
  • Volunteer with or donate to organizations fighting to end mandatory minimum sentences such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums, www.famm.org, the NYCLU, www.nyclu.org/rockefeller, and the ACLU, www.aclu.org.
  • Learn more about the racial implications of the “war on drugs” and the ways in which low-income communities of color are targeted by law enforcement and harmed by current drug policies. Read Caught in the Net: The Impact of Drug Policies on Women and Families, which you can find at www.aclu.org/womensrights and www.fairlaws4families.org.

IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE FAMILIES STAY UNITED

  • Write to your legislators to support a New York state law, A-7231/S-5299, that among other things, would prohibit DOCS and Verizon-MCI from entering into another similar contract when the current contract expires and would require the state to provide the recipient of a collect call the lowest market rate. Go to www.telephonejustice.org/ for more information.
  • Volunteer with or donate to organizations fighting to end mandatory minimum sentences such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums, www.famm.org, the NYCLU, www.nyclu.org/rockefeller, and the ACLU, www.aclu.org.
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  • Volunteer with or donate to organizations that provide resources to children with parents in prison. For a list of these organizations go to www.aclu.org/wordsfromprison. –><!–
  • Volunteer at a women’s prison to help support greater visitation opportunities so that mothers can maintain contact with their children and families. For a list of these organizations go to www.aclu.org/wordsfromprison. –>

IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE WOMEN CAN ESCAPE ABUSE

  • Volunteer at a women’s prison. Can you join or start a prison writing workshop that helps women draw the links between violence in their lives and their incarceration?
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  • Volunteer at a women’s prison to help improve the medical and mental health services available to women prisoners. Visit www.aclu.org/wordsfromprison for list of prisons where you might volunteer. –><!–
  • Support the New York State bill, S.5124-A/A.8024-A, which would allow incarcerated survivors of domestic violence to be eligible for early release through increased merit time allowances. Go to www.aclu.org/wordsfromprison for a list of state legislative lobbying actions. You can also learn more about this bill on the Correctional Association website at www.correctionalassociation.org/ WIPP/CWP/coalition_committees.htm. –>
  • Learn more by contacting the Women in Prison Project of the Correctional Association of New York, which is dedicated to advocating for a criminal justice system that addresses women’s specific needs and that treats people and their families with fairness, dignity, and respect: www.correctionalassociation.org.
  • Learn more about the legal challenges battered women face in arguing that they acted in self-defense when they assaulted or killed their abusers. Read <>Battered Women & Feminist Lawmaking by Elizabeth M. Schneider, for its discussion of battered women, or contact the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women at 1-800-903-0111, ex. 3.<!–
  • Many women are trapped in violent relationships because they literally have nowhere else to go. Call your representative in Congress today and tell him or her to fully fund the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 and its programs to provide transitional and permanent housing for women fleeing their abusers. Go to www.aclu.org/wordsfromprison for legislative actions you can take. –><!–
  • Write your representatives in Congress to support amendments to the Prison Litigation Reform Act [any bills currently pending to amend? Give bill number. Go to www.aclu.org/wordsfromprison to learn how you can lobby for amendments that eliminate the physical injury and exhaustion requirements. –>

IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT VIOLENCE

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  • Volunteer with or donate to your local domestic violence shelter. Domestic violence shelters provide counseling and programs specifically designed to help victims of abuse move past their trauma and away from abusive relationships. Help ensure that these services are broadly accessible to underserved communities. Visit www.aclu.org/wordsfromprison for a list of shelters you can volunteer with or make donations to. –>

  • Call your representative in Congress today and tell him or her to fully fund the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, which provides financial support for battered women’s shelters, crisis lines, counseling, victim assistance, and programs for underserved communities.
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  • Every year, public housing authorities (PHAs) must go through an annual planning process that includes an opportunity for public comment on the PHA’s policies. Write to your local PHA to urge it to adopt admission policies that do not discriminate against individuals on the basis of past criminal convictions and accommodate women of all ethnicities. Visit www.aclu.org/wordsfromprison to download a sample letter to a PHA, and a list of contact information for PHAs in New York. –>

  • Donate to the Women’s Prison Association’s short-term emergency housing program for women leaving prison who do not have a safe place to go. Learn more at WPA’s website, www.wpaonline.org.
  • Donate to local chapter organizations that address the needs of particular communities of domestic violence victims such as Sakhi for South Asian Women, www.sakhi.com, and the New York Asian Women’s Center, www.nyawc.org.
  • Donate your old business suits to the Osborne Association’s Clothing Bank. The Osborne Association works with ex-offenders to help them find employment and obtain self-sufficiency. For more information visit: www.osborneny.org/south_forty_clothes.htm.

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