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Letter in Support of S-2540/A-3979: The Dignity for Incarcerated Caretakers Act

Jan 23, 2019 by AFP

Dear Chairwoman Greenstein and Chairman Burzichelli:

On behalf of Americans for Prosperity – New Jersey, our tens of thousands of activists across the state and our 3.2 million activists across the nation, I urge you to please post S-2540 and A-3979 for a vote in your respective committees.

Over 65,000 New Jersey children have grown up with a parent behind bars. Enduring prison is difficult enough on its own, but it is especially painful for inmates separated from their children. Unfortunately, New Jersey policies don’t help. Incarcerated parents in the Garden State too often face difficult choices, like weighing paying for telephone calls to speak with their families or purchasing hygiene products. A-3979 and S-2540 help prisoners maintain the family ties crucial to reducing recidivism and extend an increased measure of dignity to parents in prison.

Keeping families connected is a centerpiece. This legislation requires inmate parents to be placed in correctional facilities as close as possible to their children, ensuring practical visitation options throughout the week, and piloting overnight visitation programs for inmates and their children. The bills also provide inmates free telephone and video conferencing as well as hygiene products so that no prisoner has choose between their dignity and their children. Finally, the legislation gives all incarcerated parents the ability to access parenting classes, trauma-informed care, and mentorship opportunities with former inmates to better prepare them to adjust to their own and their children’s lives after release.

Pregnant women also receive needed support. The bills follow in the steps of the overwhelmingly passed federal bi-partisan First Step Act, which among other reforms banned shackling pregnant inmates. The legislation also bans putting pregnant inmates to solitary confinement and offers incarcerated parents and pregnant women access to residential drug abuse treatment programs.

Finally, the legislation helps improve oversight by ensuring the appointment of ombudsmen to monitor allegations of abuse and failure to comply with this bill’s requirements.

For a parent in prison, there’s nothing more important than family. Keeping families connected is crucial to reduce recidivism and saving taxpayer dollars, as it costs more than $60,000 a year to incarcerate someone in New Jersey.

A-3979 and S-2540’s reforms are common-sense reforms and enjoy support across the political spectrum. Americans for Prosperity endorses A-3979 and S-2540 and urges you to post these bills for a vote to secure better futures for incarcerated parents and their children.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. If I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Sincerely,

Erica L. Jedynak