What is the Coalition for Women Prisoners?

Coordinated by the Correctional Association’s Women in Prison Project, the Coalition for Women Prisoners is a state-wide alliance of more than 1,600 people and 100 organizations.Members include people with criminal justice histories, social service providers, community-based organizations, lawyers, teachers, students, faith leaders, and concerned individuals.

The Coalition’s goals are to: ensure that criminal justice policy is fair, addresses women’s specific needs and protects their rights; end the criminal justice system’s unjust response to domestic violence survivors convicted of crimes directly related to abuse; protect incarcerated mothers’ ability to maintain bonds with and rights to their children; eliminate barriers to reentry and allow women make a safe and productive return to their communities after prison; educate the public and policymakers about key criminal justice issues affecting women and families; and facilitate formerly incarcerated women’s leadership in efforts to change policies that directly affect their lives.

What is the Violence Against Women Committee?

The Violence Against Women Committee is one of three Committees of the Coalition for Women Prisoners. The Committee works to: end incarceration as a response to survivors convicted of crimes directly related to abuse; promote policies that meet incarcerated survivors’ needs and allow survivors early release; and facilitate the leadership and participation of formerly incarcerated survivors in the Committee and in policy debates about survivors and the criminal justice system.

What does the Coalition do?

The Coalition for Women Prisoners educates the public, press, and policy-makers about the issues that currently and formerly incarcerated women face. We advocate to change criminal justice policies and improve the way the system treats women. We work together to create a supportive community and a place to network. The Coalition works through three main committees: the Incarcerated Mothers Committee, the Violence Against Women Committee and the Conditions and Re-Entry Committee.

When was DVSJA introduced?

DVSJA was introduced in both the New York State Senate and the Assembly (bill numbers A.7874-A/S.5436) on May 20, 2011. The bill’s Senate sponsor is Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson and the Assembly sponsor is Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry.

When will legislators be voting on DVSJA?

Before a bill can be passed by the legislature, it must be reviewed and approved by various committees composed of small groups of legislators. Once it is approved by the committees, it is put on a calendar so it can be voted on by the full membership of the Assembly and the Senate. In order for DVSJA to pass in the Legislature, it must be approved by a majority of the members of the Senate and half of the members of the Assembly.

If the bill passes the Assembly and the Senate, it will go to the Governor. Once the DVSJA is delivered to the governor’s desk, he can either sign it into law or veto the bill to prevent it from becoming law. If the Governor vetoes the bill, it can be overridden if at least two-thirds of the legislators in the Assembly and the Senate approve the bill.

Will DVSJA need to reintroduced when the 2012 legislative cycle starts in January?

No, because the 2012 legislative session is the second-year of a two year cycle.

How Can I Help Promote the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act?

Get your organization (non-profit, community group, school, university, faith group, etc.) to fill out an organizational support memo by clicking here. Send an individual support letter to your legislator by clicking here. You can also spread information about the campaign by sharing the website through facebook or twitter.

How Can I Get More Involved in the DVSJA Campaign?

There are many ways to get involved with the campaign. The best place to start would be by joining the Coalition for Women Prisoners and attending a Violence Against Women Committee Meeting.

My experience reflects the need for DVSJA. Can I share my story?

Yes! If your personal experiences convey the urgent need for the DVSJA to be passed, we hope you will consider writing testimony that can be shared with New York State elected officials and the public. Please note that all testimony will be uploaded safely and directly into a file that only the Correctional Association’s Women in Prison Project will have access to.

Although I am not a survivor, is there a place where I can share my thoughts?

Yes! There is a section on the DVSJA Website to post comments from supporters of the bill. Please click here to submit your comments and we can post them on our discussion board. We will only post comments that are relevant to the DVSJA and related issues.

What is the Women in Prison Project?

One of four projects at the Correctional Association of New York (CA), the Women in Prison Project was created in 1991 and is dedicated to: (1) creating a criminal justice system that addresses women’s specific needs, protect women’s rights and treat people and their families with fairness, dignity and respect; (2) ensuring that prison conditions for women are humane and just; (3) stopping the misuse of prison as a response to the social problems that drive crime; and (4) facilitating the involvement and leadership of currently and formerly incarcerated women in efforts to reform policies that directly affect their lives.

Under the CA’s legislative mandate, the Project has the unique authority to monitor conditions inside correctional facilities that house women in New York State. The Project also manages ReConnect, a semi-annual leadership training program for women recently released from prison and jail, and coordinates the Coalition for Women Prisoners, a statewide alliance of more than 1,600 individuals and over 100 organizations dedicated to changing the criminal justice system for women and families. The project carries out its mission through a range of integrated and strategic initiatives including prison monitoring, policy advocacy, research and report writing, public education, coalition-building, community organizing, and leadership development.

What is the Correctional Association?

The Correctional Association of New York (CA) was founded in 1844 by a group of New York’s leading citizens concerned about brutal prison conditions and the lack of services available for individuals returning to their communities after incarceration. In 1846, the New York State Legislature granted the organization authority to inspect prisons and to report its findings to policymakers and the public – authority that has been granted to only one other organization in the country. This special legislative privilege enables the CA to shine a spotlight on the dark corners of New York State’s prison system and to advocate for improvements in conditions of confinement. Through four projects – Women in Prison, Prison Visiting, Juvenile Justice and Public Policy/Drop the Rock – the CA advocates for a more fair and humane criminal justice system and a more safe and just society.

Who is organizing the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) campaign?

The DVSJA Campaign is led by the Coalition for Women Prisoners, a state-wide coalition coordinated by the Women in Prison Project of the Correctional Association of NY. The Campaign continues to grow due to the extraordinary efforts of Coalition members, a diverse group of advocates, including formerly and currently incarcerated individuals, service providers, community leaders, attorneys, educators, writers, artists and concerned individuals.