Pamela’s tragic and harrowing story should disturb every American. Under no circumstances should we treat any of our fellow citizens with such savage disregard and lack of basic human dignity — and yet, Pamela’s experience shows us what incarcerated women across our nation face every single day.
Incarcerated women are often left out of the larger criminal justice reform conversation despite being the fastest growing population of incarcerated people in America. We have an overall prison population in America that’s grown about 500% since 1980, which is alarming, but the number of women in prison has gone up over 700%, and is increasing at an ever faster rate than the male prison population. It’s a disturbing reality that a whopping one third of all of the incarcerated women on Earth are here in the United States of America.
Many of these women — who are majority nonviolent offenders — are also parents of children under the age of 18, and when they are incarcerated it’s the entire family that suffers. Perhaps even more sickening is that in America we have a sexual-abuse-to-prison pipeline that is unconscionable — 86% of incarcerated women are survivors of sexual trauma and 77% are survivors of partner violence.
It’s this group of women that I, along with Senators Warren, Kamala Harris, and Dick Durbin have specifically focused on in our bill, the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act.
Our bill consists of commonsense reforms. For example, banning solitary confinement and shackling of pregnant women — two barbaric practices that violate our values and principles. In addition, while the vast majority of women are mothers, exorbitant prison phone fees often prevent them from calling their children — so our bill includes free calls and video conferencing in order to help them stay in contact. It’s basic reforms like these that will help these women maintain their basic dignity while doing their time in prison.
If you agree that we need to do more to address the unique challenges that American women like Pamela face in prison, please join me:
Thank you for signing this petition, and for your support of the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act.
Cory BookerU.S. Senator, New Jersey