Women Speak Out About Criminal Justice Policies

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On March 6, formerly incarcerated women and other advocates braved sub-zero temperatures to participate in the Coalition for Women Prisoners’ 13th annual Advocacy Day, coordinated by the CA’s Women in Prison Project. Over 300 people attended the Albany event, making it the Coalition’s largest Advocacy Day yet.

The day began with welcoming remarks by Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, sponsor of the Coalition’s Advocacy Day and Chair of the Committee on Corrections, followed by the presentation of six Advocate for Justice awards. The Coalition presented these awards to Denise Dunkley, Carole Eady, Sherri M., Lorrayne Patterson, Anisah Thompson, and Stacey Thompson in recognition of their dedication and commitment to working on behalf of currently and formerly incarcerated women and to making change in their communities.

In the afternoon, 35 lobbying teams met with 140 legislators to discuss the Coalition’s policy reform priorities:

  1.  Increased funding for visiting and reunification programs that help keep families connected when a mother is in prison.
    Requiring New York State to suspend–rather than terminate–Medicaid for people entering prison and jail with prior coverage.
  2. Requiring the Department of Health to oversee and monitor HIV and Hepatitis C care in state correctional facilities.
  3. Allowing merit time and the ability to earn early release from prison for domestic violence survivors incarcerated for committing crimes as a result of abuse.
    Repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws and increased funding for drug treatment and alternatives to incarceration for women.

Stacey Thompson, the Women in Prison Project’s Community Outreach Coordinator, called the day “very successful,” especially regarding the merit time legislation. “I think domestic violence survivors in prison may finally get a little piece of the justice they deserve.”