Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker are making moves to tackle an issue in the war on women that receives far less attention than it should: the treatment of female prisoners in the federal prison system. Warren and Booker, along with cosponsors Senators Kamala Harris and Dick Durbin, introduced The Dignity For Incarcerated Women Act on July 11 in the hopes of improving notoriously poor conditions for these women. The bill includes a number of provisions federal prisons would have to adhere to, such as providing free tampons or pads and placing a ban on the shackling of pregnant women.
The bill would require the Federal Bureau of Prisons to better serve women with children by requiring better visitation policies, eliminating a phone call charge, introducing video calling for free, and coming up with an overnight visit program. Soon-to-be mothers are addressed as well through a proposed ban on the use of solitary confinement for those who are pregnant. If passed, the bill would affect more than 12,000 women in federal prison. The bill does not, however, affect state prisons or local jails, according to HuffPost.
All four senators offered up reasons as to why this bill matters in a press release, but these reasons were mostly centered on giving women the care they need. “For too long, issues affecting women have been left out of the conversation about prison reform – that ends today,” Senator Booker said. “[The bill is] about living up to our nation’s commitment that every person is treated with dignity and has a real opportunity to build a future,” Senator Warren added.
According to a 2010 report from The Rebecca Project on Human Rights, the spike of women in prison increased with the implementation of mandatory sentencing due to drug laws enacted in the 1980s. Most of the women convicted for drug offenses are usually “non-violent, first-time offenders.” These women were also the “primary caretakers of their children.” A bill addressing these issues is long overdue, but giving a spotlight to such an urgent cause will hopefully enact the changes that women deserve.