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Campaigns

COMMUNITY WELLNESS ALTERNATIVES

Justice Home – Pretrial Alternative to Incarceration

JusticeHome is a proposed pretrial alternative to incarceration. It is a diversion program offered to women pretrial. JusticeHome allows women  to remain in their homes, instead of going to prison, and receive individual assessments and wrap-around community-based wellness services for themselves and their children. Instead of being warehoused in a prison, women and their children receive the support to heal from within their communities.

Pretrial Risk Assessments

We advocate for a national standard  risk assessment tool to be used in MA courts to provide a better way to determine who is eligible to be released from jail while awaiting disposition of their case. In MA the population of pretrial detainees far outnumber the sentenced population, leading to uneccessary incarceration and prison crowding. In the state of Maine, for instance, use of a pretrial risk assessment tool reduced their prison population by 80%. Every day, criminal justice officials make a decision that has implications for public safety and costs: Should a defendant be released pretrial or detained until adjudication? The period of time between arrest and disposition (the pretrial stage) provides an opportunity to use advancements in science to safeguard the public.

Historically, personal experience, professional judgment, confusing statutes, and monetary charge-based bail schedules have guided critical bail decisions. However, in the last decade, communities around the country have demonstrated that the decision to release or detain a defendant pretrial can be improved by assessing the defendants’ risk. Pretrial instruments can help decision- makers understand the likelihood of pretrial misbehavior to improve public safety outcomes and save money.

Support of Anti-Shackling Legislation S.1171

Testimony: Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security – Dec. 2013

I am the Director of Families for Justice as Healing and we are here in support of senate bill 1171.  We advocate for community wellness alternatives to incarceration and our focus is women. As the Director of Families for Justice as Healing I have a unique perspective on the issues of women and incarceration as I am a former criminal defense attorney as well as a formerly incarcerated woman. My professional and personal experiences define my advocacy and that of our organization, which is comprised of formerly incarcerated women.

During my incarceration I lived with women who were pregnant and endured shackling during labor. One woman was even shackled and then cuffed to a radiator while in labor and waiting to be transported. Childbirth is a most important time in both the mother’s life and that of the newborn. Even for incarcerated women and their babies who will soon be separated. As a woman and a mother who went to prison when my son was only 5 months old, I know the pain and emotional toll that incarceration and separation has on mothers and their children. I think in general we think far too little of this and other policies that have grown out of the increase of women to our jail and prison population. Shackling of women during and post-delivery is one of these policies that we have clearly not thought enough about.

Shackling of a woman in labor creates a high risk for complications due to the woman’s inability to position herself throughout her labor to facilitate a safe delivery. Shackles on a woman during labor also create an even greater level of physical discomfort and emotional stress for the woman that is felt by her child. Both the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have denounced this practice. The majority of incarcerated women in Massachusetts are not violent offenders in need of being shackled. Most of them are victims themselves of trauma, domestic violence and poverty, all things directly related to their path to incarceration.

We support senate bill 1171 that would prohibit the shackling of incarcerated women during pregnancy, childbirth, and post-delivery and would also establish minimum standards for the treatment and medical care of pregnant incarcerated women. It is a matter of basic human rights. We thank you Mr. Chairman and committee members for this opportunity.

Andrea James

Opposition to House bill H.1434, sponsored by Kay Khan 

H. 1434 is a bill to build a new jail for women in Middlesex County. We oppose any new jail construction and advocate for community wellness alternatives to incarceration that address more effectively addiction, mental illness and trauma and chronic poverty.

Opposition to Senate bill S. 1870 – a bill to locate sites for two new jails in Middlesex County

Repeal of the Monetary Bail System in MA

To end the monetary bail system to be replaced by a national standard risk assessment tool to determine risk of flight and dangerousness, as opposed to creating continued crowding in jails due to people who cannot afford bail.

Repeal of Sex-for-Fee statute 

FREE HER Rally

June 21, 2014 Washington, DC – a rally to raise awareness of the increase in incarceration of women in the United States. 400% for women in general and 800% for African american women.  Also we are asking President Obama to commute the sentences of women and men serving federal non-violent drug offenses who have filed for commutation.