prison reform

Many claim smaller, yet priority legislative initiatives like prison reform have taken a back seat to bigger-ticket items like tax reform and nearly anything to do with the economy. Though, lawmakers who prioritize constituents make sure these do not fall through the cracks as emphasis is placed elsewhere. Recently, Republican Congressman Scott Taylor (VA-2) and Democratic Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman introduced the bipartisan “Pathway to Parenting” Act.

The legislation is set to implement “common-sense” prison reform guidelines in the criminal justice system that seeks to improve the treatment of women incarcerated in federal prisons. Furthermore, the lawmakers hope that subsequent reforms will help reduce the negative impact that incarceration has on family members, especially children.

Specifically, the bill targets areas of prison reform within the federal prison system to decrease recidivism rates and improve the treatment of incarcerated women. Areas that will be changed is the expansion of family visitation policies for primary caretaker parents. As well, pregnant women prisoners will no longer be shackled or be subject to solitary confinement.

Employees of the Bureau of Prisons will also be directed to provide parenting classes to primary caretaker parents and train and instruct correctional officers on the proper ways to handle victims of mental and emotional trauma.

Returning citizens will also be allowed to mentor those whom are currently incarcerated. The program is set to help with re-entry into daily life outside of prison.

Following the introduction of the bill, via a statement, Congressman Taylor said:

“Incarcerated pregnant women should not have to worry about the safety or health of their unborn children via the stress of solitary confinement or shackling. After they pay their debts to society, we must have policies in place that reduce recidivism, allow for a productive return to communities, and keep families together. American women are incarcerated disproportionately more than their foreign counterparts and there is a large percentage of them with children. This bipartisan bill is a big step in the right direction.” 

Congresswoman Coleman stated:

“Children shouldn’t suffer the trauma of separation, missed communication or worse because their mothers are incarcerated, nor should we ignore elements of a prison system that are inherently punitive when we claim that system is rehabilitative. This bill would treat women with dignity while they serve their sentences by targeting several policies for pregnant women and caretaking parents and take a vital action to prevent infant and maternal mortality with a pilot program providing small-group, comprehensive prenatal care that considers physical health, mental health and parenting skill building. The policies we’ve proposed here have no party – they’re simply good for the women in our prison system, the families of those women and the society these women will eventually return to.”