Prison buses: Free service helped families cope
From Watertown Daily Times:
New York state used to provide free bus service to its prisons for inmates’ family members until the program was canceled last year.
Advocates for 56,000 New York inmates are calling for renewal of the program, despite the state’s financial challenges. The service costs about $1.5 million.
Families of prisoners used the free bus service to renew ties with their incarcerated members through family visits.
Such visits help children cope with the absence of a parent, and give spouses a chance to touch base as well.
Most families cannot afford the bus tickets on a regular basis, or afford to include children on the visits.
A recent report from the Vera Institute of Justice noted a Washington state correction study that showed the value of family visits to raise prison morale and improve inmate behavior. Prisoners who received regular family visits were six times less likely to commit prison violations, the study found.
As for New York’s bus service: “Upwards of 25,000 people were using this program. It operated very much as a lifeline for children,” said Tamar Kraft-Stolar of the Correctional Association of New York.
Some 80,000 children have a parent in state prison; more than 5,000 have a mother who is incarcerated, she said.
Rehabilitation of inmates is one important goal of incarceration. Family visits would seem to improve the chances of that happening. They provide an incentive to do better. They provide hope — to inmates and their families.
The cost of busing people to state prisons is a price worth paying for that hope.
The United States has 5% of the world’s women, and 33% of its incarcerated women. Women’s imprisonment rose 700% nationally between 1980 and 2014, and women of color are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated. In response to this dramatic increase, the National Institute of Corrections and the National Resource Center on Justice-Involved Women worked to develop effective practices for women’s prisons through a Gender Informed Practice Assessment tool, known as GIPA.Read More
When Cassidy Green learned that she was pregnant, she and her husband didn’t discuss cribs, co-sleeping, or even diapers. Instead, they worried about more basic and immediate challenges, like whether Green would be able to spend more than a few days with her baby. Green was in prison, 9 years into a 15-year prison sentence [...]Read More
Under unique statutory authority granted to the CA in 1846, WIPP monitors conditions in women’s prisons in New York, a role played by no other group in the country. WIPP coordinates the Coalition for Women Prisoners, a statewide alliance of more than 1,800 people, and carries out advocacy campaigns to reform harmful criminal justice policies. [...]Read More
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 [...]Read More