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Behind Bars, But Not Alone

Mie Lewis,
Women's Rights Project
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February 13, 2008

Go to a men’s prison on any given visiting day and you’ll see the same scene: a throng of women who’ve come to visit their loved ones, often with children in tow. Many will have traveled hours for a brief visit. Go to a women’s prison and you’re likely to find a much smaller group of visitors. It’s ironic that women, who are usually the glue that hold families together, often find themselves very alone when they are imprisoned.

But that’s not always true. In December, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and the ACLU of New Jersey filed suit on behalf of 40 who’d been plucked from New Jersey’s only women’s prison and confined in dungeonlike conditions in one unit of a men’s supermax prison.

As news of prison officials’ outrageous actions spread, people from all walks of life gathered in support of the women prisoners. They rallied outside the prison demanding justice for the women. Community members continue to push for fair treatment for the women prisoners in ways big and small.

On February 6, the Newark City Council passed a resolution calling upon the New Jersey Department of Corrections to immediately end its policy of incarcerating women in a men’s facility and to return the women to the New Jersey women’s prison. The resolution also called for the conditions under which the women are held to be improved immediately. Newark is the second city to take up the women’s cause. Earlier on December 11, the Elizabeth City Council passed a similar resolution, urging the Department of Corrections to treat women prisoners fairly.

The fight for the rights of women prisoners in New Jersey has just begun.

You can find out more about the women held in the New Jersey’s men’s supermax prison on our website.