Earlier this week, the Rosenberg Foundation published their second edition of Justice in California, an online publication that features the writings of 17 visionary thinkers on critical social justice issues.
You are quite familiar with two of those visionaries: Judy Patrick, our president and CEO, and Susan Burton, founder and executive director of our grant partner A New Way of Life.
The two wrote a powerful article that is a must-read for all who are interested in prison reform in California as well as successful rehabilitation of formerly incarcerated women.
In their article titled Beyond Bars: It is Time to Bring Women Home, Judy and Susan argue for developing programs that would help formerly incarcerated women break the cycle of incarceration.
Instead of sending to jail women who have committed minor offenses such as shoplifting and drug possession, Judy and Susan show that community-based custody programs, which give women critical support such as stable housing, job training, education, parenting education and mental health care, are a better way to go.
“In these safe, supportive and supervised environments, women transform. They begin to dream again. They become productive and start taking responsibility. They leave behind lives of addiction. They begin taking care of their children. Instead of going back to prison or jail, they go on to lead new lives, together with their families. They start contributing to their communities. Allowing nonviolent women offenders to pay their debts to society while getting the help they need to lead productive lives reduces crime and benefits all of us,” write Judy and Susan.
Furthermore, Judy and Susan argue against building more prisons—or overcrowding the existing ones—and demand that we bring our women home. And they’re not alone—Californians agree with them.
90 percent of California voters said in a recent poll that they believe that mothers and parents convicted of nonviolent offenses should be able to maintain contact with their children. Nearly 75 percent of those voters stated that once they heard that majority of women incarcerated for nonviolent offenses are primary caregivers for their children, they were less likely to favor putting them behind bars (and more likely to look for alternatives).
So the time for change is now, demand our two visionaries:
“We need to help women rebuild their lives, not lock them up behind bars. By doing so, we can make a significant impact on families, communities, and our state.”
Read the other opinion pieces in Justice in California:
- Maria Echaveste, Benjamin Todd Jealous, and Kate Kendell highlight the need to harness the power of the “New American Majority” to usher in real change, beginning with a new immigration process.
- Sofia Campos, Catherine Eusebio, and Jorge Gutierrez show us how undocumented immigrant youth are drawing strength from their differences to fuel a movement that has ignited the nation.
- Ai-jen Poo and Laphonza Butler discuss the exciting opportunities at the intersection of immigrant and workers’ rights.
- Maisie Greenawalt, Erik Nicholson, and Minor Sinclair write about how socially conscious consumers can deliver justice for farm workers.
- Lenore Anderson lays out a new vision for safety in the Golden State.
- San Francisco DA George Gascón urges prosecutors to transform the justice system for the better.
- And Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and Esta Soler discuss why we must stem the tide of violence and trauma experienced by children, an urgent epidemic that has far reaching consequences.