Survivors of Abuse and Incarceration

The overwhelming majority of women in prison are survivors of domestic violence. Three-quarters have histories of severe physical abuse by an intimate partner during adulthood, and 82% suffered serious physical or sexual abuse as children. But whereas efforts to recognize and address domestic violence in the community have made some progress, public support too often stops when survivors defend themselves or their children from an abuser’s violence.

Too often, the system responds to such women solely as perpetrators – not survivors – of violence, sending them to prison for long periods of time with little chance for parole. In addition, because incarceration further destabilizes already marginalized communities, it ultimately perpetuates the conditions in which violence against women thrives.

The large numbers of survivors in prison represents a failure of both the criminal justice and social service systems. Some women are in prison for defending themselves against an abuser. Others are incarcerated because they engaged in criminal activity to survive or because they took action at the behest of an abuser out of fear and threat of harm. Inadequate community or financial supports and harsh anti-immigrant policies may make it especially difficult for low-income and immigrant women to escape abusive relationships.

Prisons are a cruel environment for survivors: most prisons have few programs to address needs related to abuse and trauma and services to aid in rebuilding relationships with children and families are inadequate. Women often experience poor treatment – sometimes physical and sexual abuse – from correction officers and shackling policies can result in intense distress and trigger flashbacks.

Because domestic violence plays a significant role in women’s pathway to prison, it should be taken into account and addressed at all stages of the criminal justice process. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Because of mandatory minimum sentencing laws, judges have limited ability to take the impact of domestic violence into account when making sentencing decisions. As a result, many survivors end up serving years – sometimes decades – behind prison walls for acting to protect themselves.

Survivors in the system pose virtually no threat to public safety, and when appropriate should be diverted to alternative-to-incarceration programs in the community—programs that are more effective in helping women recover from abuse and rebuild their lives and families.

Likewise, all criminal justice professionals should be trained to recognize and address the needs of domestic violence survivors, and prison programs and services should be realigned to humanely and sensitively account for women’s histories of trauma and abuse.

Finally, the public at large must recognize survivors caught up in the criminal justice system as equally deserving of support, protection and justice as survivors in the community.

For more information, or to get involved, visit the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act page.

 

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News | September 27, 2016

NYT Editorial: “Bringing Prison Guards to Justice”

The New York Times in this editorial today is saying what we at the CA have been reporting on for decades: without any any transparency and accountability, the abuse of people who are incarcerated will persist and those who are responsible will still act with impunity. Until accountability is the norm and not the exception, the abuse -- and in some cases, loss of life -- will continue.Read More

News | September 22, 2016

Board of the Correctional Association of New York Appoints Carlton S. Mitchell Interim Executive Director

CSM photo

On September 22, 2016, the Board of Directors of the Correctional Association of New York announced the appointment of Carlton S. Mitchell as Interim Executive Director. He will start his duties in September 2016. Read More

News | August 26, 2016

“Revisiting Attica Shows How New York Failed to Fulfill Promises”

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News | April 12, 2016

Lawmakers, Advocates, and Survivors of Solitary Confinement Back Legislation Limiting Use of Isolation in New York’s Prisons and Jails

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News | December 16, 2015

CA APPLAUDS AGREEMENT WITH NEW YORK STATE ON THE USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN NYS STATE PRISONS

(December 16, 2015, New York, NY): Today, the Correctional Association of New York (CA), the state’s oldest criminal justice reform organization, released the following statement in reaction to the announcement of an agreement with the state of New York resulting from litigation challenging NYDOCCS’ use of solitary confinement:Read More

News | October 2, 2015

Prison Inmates Put a Name to a Feared Guard Known as Captain America

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News | September 4, 2015

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The Correctional Association of NY conducted in depth interviews with 30 people currently incarcerated at Clinton on August 19 and 20, 2015, and corresponded with many more people held at the prison over the last few months. The information reported provides further confirmation of both extensive staff brutality in the aftermath of the June escape from Clinton, as reported by the New York Times; and longstanding and pervasive staff violence and abuse at Clinton, as last documented by the CA’s October 2014 report. The brave people willing to come forward to report what is happening behind the walls shared tragic and harrowing accounts highlighting several things everyone should know about Clinton.Read More

News | June 29, 2015

CA APPLAUDS SWIFT PASSAGE OF NEW IMPROVED ANTI-SHACKLING BILL BY NYS LEGISLATURE

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News | March 11, 2015

“The kids aren’t all right”

n this timely and insightful piece in The Hill on March 11 by the CA's Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, Director of the Juvenile Justice Project, and Sarah Bryer, Director of the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN), the authors lay out a cogent and fact-based case for why there needs to be significant change in our youth justice system.Read More

News | March 3, 2015

CA Says Attica Guards’ Plea Deal in 2011 Gang Assault is Historic, Not Justice

March 3, 2015, (New York, NY): The misdemeanor plea deals offered to the three Attica guards who brutally beat George Williams are historic. Indeed, it is the first time in the history of New York State that any guard has been prosecuted for brutality against someone in prison. It is significant because it sends a message that prosecution is possible. But there’s another message here, one that we know all too well -- that the lives of people who are incarcerated hold little to no value. Read More

| August 11, 2016

AUDIO: Rally to End Solitary Confinement

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CA in the Press | July 11, 2016

AUDIO: Discussion of “Voices from Clinton” – On The Count (WBAI)

In this show, which aired on July 9th, Jack Beck, Director of the Prison Visiting Project, discusses the latest report from the CA entitled, “Voices from Clinton: First-Hand Accounts of  Brutality, Torture, and Cover-Up from People Incarcerated at an Infamously Abusive New York State Prison.” Listen to the full show here.Read More

CA in the Press | June 10, 2016

Report by advocates alleges abuse after escape

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CA in the Press | June 10, 2016

AUDIO: Correctional Association Report Alleges Brutality At Prison

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CA in the Press | June 7, 2016

Prison escape showed “systemic failures,” report says

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CA in the Press | June 7, 2016

VIDEO: New York Prison Break: Outside the Wall, One Year Later

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CA in the Press | April 25, 2016

Letter to the Editor: Rogue Prison Guards

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CA in the Press | April 13, 2016

She Was Acquitted Of Murdering Her Abusive Ex After Years In Prison. Now Comes The Hard Part.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Cherelle Baldwin was technically free. It had been nine days since her release from York Correctional Institution, Connecticut’s only prison for women. She spent almost three years there, waiting to stand trial for the murder of her ex-boyfriend before being found innocent. But even though she was back outside, free to go anywhere she wanted, whenever she wanted, Baldwin said she felt trapped.Read More

CA in the Press | November 3, 2015

‘Why Won’t She Go to the Police?’ or How the Police Tolerate Gender-Based Violence in Their Own Ranks

Why won’t women “just go to the police”? Maybe because they don’t have faith the police will help them. Brutality often begins at home, including in police families. In department after department, law enforcement officials are ignoring disciplinary and legal standards for officers accused of sexual violence and domestic violence. At least two self-reported surveys reveal that up to forty percent – 40% – of police families experience domestic violence and sexual “misconduct” is the second most prevalent form of police misconduct, after excessive force.Read More

CA in the Press | October 1, 2015

Prision Staff Remain On Payrolls Despite Excessive Force Lawsuits

When he was assaulted a second time in two weeks at Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, Melvin Wells believed it was payback. The inmate — who received $65,000 in 2011 to settle a lawsuit that grew out of the incidents — had dared to file a complaint, or grievance, against the officer he said had beaten him the first time.Read More

Prison Monitoring Reports Reports & Research Testimonies Infographics

VOICES FROM CLINTON: First-Hand Accounts of Brutality, Torture, And Cover-up From People Incarcerated at an Infamously Abusive New York State Prison

Clinton Slider 2

New York State prisons are plagued by a pervasive and entrenched culture of staff brutality, violence, abuse, racism, dehumanization, and intimidation, as well as the routine infliction of solitary confinement. As Correctional Association of NY (CA) reports on Clinton, Attica, Greene, Fishkill Correctional Facilities and other prisons have long documented, these abuses and their cover-ups are regular and typical practices in Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) prisons.Read More

Advocacy Tools Prison Monitoring Reports Reports & Research

10 Things You Need to Know About Brutality and Abuse at Clinton C.F.

The Correctional Association of NY conducted in depth interviews with 30 people currently incarcerated at Clinton on August 19 and 20, 2015, and corresponded with many more people held at the prison over the last few months. The information reported provides further confirmation of both extensive staff brutality in the aftermath of the June escape from Clinton, as reported by the New York Times; and longstanding and pervasive staff violence and abuse  at Clinton, as last documented by the CA’s October 2014 report.Read More

Advocacy Tools Video

Ending the barbaric practice of shackling incarcerated pregnant women

Watch the Correctional Association’s video about the barbaric – and illegal – shackling of incarcerated women during childbirth. In 2009 New York enacted a statute restricting the use of shackles on women during childbirth. The law bans outright the use of restraints on women throughout labor, delivery and recovery “after giving birth,” which is meant to cover at least the duration of a woman’s stay at the hospital. Read More

Prison Monitoring Reports Reports & Research

Reproductive Injustice

  Every time the CA visits a women’s prison in New York,  reports abound concerning the poor standards of health care in general, and the struggles  experienced by  women who are incarcerated to secure women-specific  care.   “Reproductive Injustice:  The State of Reproductive Health Care for Women in New York State,” the February 2015 report by the Women in Prison Project, reveals  the failure of the New York State prison system  to provide quality reproductive health care and treat women with respect for their basic dignity and human rights.Read More

Prison Monitoring Reports

Attica State Prison

Attica Correctional Facility, a 2,000-bed maximum security prison in western New York, continues to operate as a symbolic and real epicenter of state violence and abuse of incarcerated persons in the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) state prison system 43 years after the 1971 prison uprising and violent suppression by state authorities. Read More

Advocacy Tools Video

Why we need the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act

VAW

Join the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) Campaign and be part of a movement to change the criminal justice system’s harsh and inappropriate response to DV survivors who act to protect themselves from an abuser’s violence.Read More

Testimonies Video

May 30, 2012 Senate Democratic Conference Public Forum Testimony, Lady Kathryn Williams

DV Press Conf Legis Gazette Photo 6-7-11 Lady K

Lady Kathryn Williams, an advocate, survivor and member of the Coalition for Women Prisoners testifies about the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act at the Senate Democratic Conference Public Forum on Domestic Violence.Read More

Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Summer 2012

In this issue; The Close to Home Initiative: youth leaders speak out; The Prison Rape Elimination Act; Welcome to CA’s new staff and board membersRead More

Testimonies Video

May 30, 2012 Senate Democratic Conference Public Forum Testimony, Kim Dadou

Kim Dadou in Albany

Kim Dadou, advocate and survivor of domestic violence, testifies at Women's Forum on Domestic Violence.Read More

Testimonies Video

May 30, 2012 Senate Democratic Conference Public Forum Testimony, Tamar Kraft-Stolar

The Director of the Correctional Association's Women in Prison Project testifies before the Senate Democratic Conference Public Forum on Domestic Violence on May 30, 2012.Read More

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