- provide training while men and women are incarcerated;
eliminate the disparity between the sentencing for crack cocaine and heroin;
lower mandatory minimum sentences;
prohibit shackling of prisoners giving birth; and
mandate prisoners be held at facilities 500 miles or less from home. [space available]
Ask President Trump to promise to sign this federal legislation into law once it has passed both houses of Congress.Senator Mitch McConnell pledged bring the legislation up for a vote IF the President will sign it. Jared Kushner, whose father has been incarcerated, is pushing this bill.
Please write to Senator Mitch McConnell https://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contactform and ask him to bring First Step Act up for a vote in the senateThank you.Charlotte Simpson, activistEMIT member
This article published on The Marshall Project, an online news agency founded by former New York Times journalists, is dedicated to reform of our country’s justice and corrections systems.
Massachusetts Mobilizes to Treat Addicted Moms
Jail time increasingly gives way to residential programs.
Kayla Duggan, a heroin addict, had just started a one-year jail sentence in Massachusetts when she was startled to learn she was pregnant. Only a few months earlier she had given birth to a baby girl who was immediately taken into foster care and whom Duggan then gave up for adoption.
This time she wanted to be part of her child’s life.
Her chance came about because of a policy changes in Massachusetts in which women addicts, particularly mothers, are increasingly directed to intensive drug treatment and away from time behind bars.
Duggan, who was imprisoned in late 2012 for a domestic violence and drug related conviction, was paroled after serving four months of her sentence and entered a residential drug-treatment program for mothers run by Spectrum Health Systems. Spectrum, a private company that works with the Department of Correction, also has smaller outpatient clinics across the state. Duggan gave birth to her son, Giovanni, while living there, still under correction department custody, and remained until he was six months old. Afterward she moved into a Boston halfway house.
“I got a beautiful second chance to be a mother to my son,” said Duggan, now 26. “I had to learn to be responsible, be available today. Because I wasn’t available before.”
Because of the opioid drug crisis sweeping New England, and the crime that accompanies it, women have become the fastest growing group heading to jail or prison, a situation reflected nationwide. This cohort includes young mothers — who are usually the primary caretakers to young children — and the long-term effects on children and families can be devastating.
Mothers, separated physically from their children while in prison, can come to experience emotional separation as well, said Judy McDonough, executive director of Edwina Martin House, a residential treatment center for women outside of Boston. A growing number of its clients are referred by the courts and probation officers.
“And then they start to lose their confidence in who they were as a parent and feel their kids are better off maybe with their parents. So it really fragments the family,” McDonough said.
A panel convened last year by Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, a Republican, concluded that mothers and pregnant women need “specialized care.” Its report recommended that treatment centers make pregnant women a priority. In 2014 the state funded two new recovery homes specifically for women, bringing the state’s total to 14.
Those who work in the field say there’s a growing recognition within the Massachusetts criminal justice system and among policymakers that intensive drug treatment can be a key to helping women transform their lives in a way that prison does not.
“The courts were not so involved with treatment as they were with let’s say punishment in a sense. And thankfully that’s turned around, and it’s really a positive now and we work very well together,” said Donna McDade, McDonough’s colleague at the Edwina Martin House, where she has served as director for 24 years.
Massachusetts is among a number of states working to address the needs of addicted mothers who are facing criminal charges.
A 2010 report by the National Women’s Law Center and The Rebecca Project said that 32 states had programs that offered mothers who are nonviolent offenders the possibility of what is called “family-based” treatment rather than prison or jail time. Family-based treatment permits mothers to live with their children at a site within the community or have visits with them regularly while receiving drug abuse treatment.
But keeping such alternatives funded can be challenging, said Edward Latessa, director of the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. He said that despite the rise in the number of incarcerated women, they still constitute only eight percent of the national prison population.
“As a general rule there tend to be fewer [alternative sentencing] programs for women, but it really varies by state and jurisdiction,” he said. “Of course many female offenders have substance abuse problems and are in need of treatment and recovery programs, but again, for service providers, since the numbers are smaller it is not always economically feasible to open a facility for women. In addition, if you are including mothers with young children the costs go higher, which again makes it more difficult to operate.”
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has its own long-standing program called Mother and Infant Nurturing Together, or MINT. It allows pregnant women — among them drug addicts — in minimum security prisons in their last trimester to reside in halfway houses before they deliver and usually for three months after they give birth. These women, who are eligible for release within five years, are taught parenting skills with the goal of encouraging bonding with their babies and are also eligible to be treated for addiction.
For both men and women addicts charged with crimes, the doubling of the number of drug courts nationally in the last decade, to 2,966, has increased opportunities for defendants to serve at least part of their time at residential treatment facilities or halfway houses instead of prison or jail.
But diversion or treatment programs have not found universal acceptance. In Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama, women are being prosecuted and locked up for endangering their children by using drugs when pregnant. Eighteen states have laws stating substance abuse during pregnancy is child abuse.
The evolution of Massachusetts’ approach has been aided by the jump in the number of drug courts established in the last two years, adding five new ones for a total of 18.
Drug courts are vitally important now because it’s where the state can refer people to residential drug treatment homes instead of jail or prison. And even though more women are being arrested and convicted, fewer female defendants are actually being sent to serve time. According to the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission, there was a four percent drop, to 1,625, in the number of women incarcerated from 2012 to 2013.
In previous years a woman who was addicted to drugs and charged with a non-violent crime could be given the choice between jail and a residential drug treatment center, but the numbers of court-ordered referrals now appear to be rising dramatically. It’s now more likely that residential treatment will become part of an offender’s sentence. The average number of probationers at 12 women’s-specific recovery homes in Massachusetts rose to 60 percent in 2014, from 25 percent in 2009, according to annual enrollment reports from the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services.
In 2014, the opioid crisis led to a record 1,000 fatal overdoses. The state has tested a range of responses, from trying to ban the powerful painkiller Zohydro to offering prostitutes mental health or medical treatment instead of jail. One city, Gloucester, created an amnesty program for addicts.
The state does not track the number of people who are offered—or manage to win—an alternative to incarceration. But judges say they are becoming more aware of the harm incarceration can have on families and that addiction may not be adequately addressed in jail. Longtime program directors report that they now get more referrals from judges than they once did.
“Many of us, and I am one of them, firmly believe that you cannot just lock people up and incarcerate them and expect their substance abuse issues to go away. It’s just not working anymore,” said District Court Justice Mary Heffernan, who runs two drug courts. “You have to put the resources into treatment.”
Beyond residential centers, treatment options include intensive outpatient addiction programs that require daily, daylong attendance. These programs can mandate community service combined with substance abuse counseling, job training, electronic monitoring, and drug testing.
Vincent Lorenti, regional program manager of the Massachusetts Office of Community Corrections, described his department’s program as “halfway between traditional probation and incarceration.” Annual community corrections statistics show that women make up an increasing percentage of the program, up five percent between 2011 and 2014.
At residential recovery homes such as Edwina Martin House, which receives significant state funding, the average four-to-six month stay costs $12,000 to $18,000. At the women’s prison in Framingham, the oldest women’s prison in the country, it costs $60,000 a year to house an inmate, according to corrections department data.
Part of the rehabilitation process is helping women to relearn basic life skills that atrophied as they began their descent into addiction. These include structuring their days, keeping appointments, shopping for groceries and cooking. Group and individual therapy sessions emphasize self-esteem. They also work to rebuild connections with their families and children. At some homes mothers live with their infants and pregnant women await delivery.
About 6:45 each morning the ringing of alarm clocks echoes through the corridors of the Edwina Martin House. The women shower, make their beds and tidy their bedrooms. By 9 a.m. they are attending group meetings on topics like music expression, relapse prevention, household budgeting and family dynamics. Some women go to work, others go to vocational training or take classes. In the evenings they attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Though jail time can include access to substance abuse programming, it’s not considered to be as intensive. “Jail doesn’t fix the issue of addiction. You’re there, and it’s just time. You’re idle,” said Stephanie, who asked to be identified by her first name only. She is a mother who was ordered by a drug court to attend Project Cope, a Boston area women’s recovery home.
It’s not an easy road, and treatment is no panacea. At Edwina Martin there is a 48 percent program completion rate, but that is still better than the state average of 31 percent completion, according to McDade.
The clients Edwina Martin has seen in recent years are young, usually in their early 20s. Typically they did not experiment much with other drugs before becoming hooked on opioids. “We have great success with them, because they are young,” says McDade. “They have not had as many losses. But their losses come quick with heroin.”
Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, and Rebecca Miller, aide to Rep. Tom Sannicandro, D-Ashland, will preview upcoming legislation for the 2015 legislative session and give inside information on how to connect with and influence our state legislators.
The meeting gets rolling at 10:45 am with registration and coffee. The program starts promptly at 11 am and ends at 1 pm. Light refreshments served. Free. Handicapped accessible. Plenty of parking. If you need a lift from public transit – Green Line to MetroWest Transit, please contact susan . tordella at g mail . com.
Bring friends who are outraged by the injustice of mass incarceration. Please share this notice with your networks.
We are building an ecumenical
statewide grassroots network to influence state legislators to pass a series of bills to return justice for all to Massachusetts, from revising pre-trial services to ending mandatory minimum sentencing.
Join a chorus of statewide advocacy groups working on this issue. We are stronger with many voices singing together loudly in many harmonies.
Given the controversy over legalizing marijuana, it’s refreshing to hear some good news about the impact from Colorado — fewer teens in the state now use marijuana.
This press release is from an industry group in the Rocky Mountain State.
Colorado teen marijuana use continues to decrease post legalization
Denver, Aug. 7, 2014: The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) released new data today showing that teen marijuana use has continued to decrease post legalization.
The newly released CDPHE data shows that from 2011 to 2013 the rate of current marijuana use among Colorado high school students has decreased from 22% to 20%; During the same time, CDC data shows that national teen marijuana usage remained virtually unchanged (2011: 23.1, 2013: 23.4) CDC Data. The CDPHE survey also shows that lifetime use by high school students has declined from 39 percent to 37 percent during the same two years.
Click here or look below to see the CDHPE release.
Statement from Michael Elliott, Executive Director of the the Marijuana Industry Group, on today’s report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment about teen marijuana use:
“The Marijuana Industry Group is happy to see that teen marijuana use continues to decrease since Colorado licensed and regulated cannabis businesses.
As responsible business owners, MIG members will continue to partner with state and local government entities, and other stakeholders, on teen prevention campaigns.
Our members work hard to make sure their products don’t end up in the hands of those who shouldn’t have it. Unlike the black market, our members don’t sell to those under 21 and we talk to every customer about responsible use and storage.
The industry pledges to remain vigilant in encouraging responsible cannabis use and preventing underage use.”
Links to More Studies
“Legalizing medical marijuana doesn’t increase use among adolescents, study says.” Science Daily, April 23rd, 2014.
” Teen marijuana use hasn’t exploded amid boom in legalization support, drug survey finds.” By Steven Nelson, US News & World Report. December 18, 2013.
News: New survey documents youth marijuana use, need for prevention
Mark Salley, Communications Director | 303-692-2013 | firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 7, 2014
DENVER — Fewer high school students in Colorado think using marijuana is risky.
Preliminary results from the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey show the percentage of students who perceived a moderate or great risk from marijuana use declined from 58 percent in 2011 to 54 percent in 2013.
The survey also shows cigarette use among high school students trending downward, at a faster pace than marijuana. Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment noted that public smoking bans, tobacco taxes, awareness campaigns and enforcement of underage tobacco sales account for the continued decrease in underage cigarette smoking.
“We know what works to protect young people from unhealthy substances,” Wolk said. “As with tobacco, youth prevention campaigns will help ensure adult legalization of marijuana in Colorado does not impact the health of Colorado kids.”
One in five Colorado high school students used marijuana in the past 30 days, and more than a third have used it at some point in their lives, the survey shows. Thirty-day marijuana use fell from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013, and lifetime use declined from 39 percent to 37 percent during the same two years. None of the declines shown in the preliminary data represent a statistically significant drop in rates.
But health experts worry that the normalization of marijuana use in Colorado could lead more young people to try it.
“If we want Colorado to be the healthiest state in the nation, then we need to make sure our youngest citizens understand the risks of using potentially harmful substances,” said Dr. Wolk. “Later this month, we’ll launch a youth prevention campaign that encourages kids not to risk damaging their growing brains by experimenting with marijuana.”
While studies show using marijuana has an effect on brain development, the extent of that effect will take years to determine conclusively. The campaign is designed to grab kids’ attention, present them with the existing science and empower them to make informed decisions.
The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey collects anonymous health information from Colorado middle and high school students every other year. In 2013, the state departments of health, education, and human services launched a unified version of the survey to approximately 40,000 randomly-selected students from more than 220 middle and high schools. Final state and regional results will be available this fall at http://www.chd.dphe.state.co.us/.
Marijuana Industry Group
This concise powerful informative video explains my motivation to end mass incarceration.
Watch it and share with your people. Then sign up with me and EMIT to reform justice in Massachusetts, one law at a time. emit.susan @ gmail . com
We must continue to connect with our state legislators and congressional representatives about changing laws they and their predecessors put in place that has made the USA an incarcer-nation.
We have only 5 percent of world population and more incarcerated people than any country on the planet, with 25 percent of all people who are incarcerated. Thanks to Wendy for sharing. She is one of the wonderful activists I’ve met this year in the march together toward justice, because we can only succeed together.