If our country wants to prevent a constant revolving door between the streets and prison, we need to make sure prisoners are treated humanely and given a chance to rehabilitate their lives. That can’t happen if prisoners’ basic needs aren’t being met, and a report released Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) “has not managed female inmates strategically” and “needs to take additional steps … to ensure that female inmates needs are met at the institutional level.”
The report noted that BOP, which currently incarcerates nearly 13,000 female inmates, “did not fully consider the needs of female inmates” when it came to “trauma treatment programming, pregnancy programming, and feminine hygiene.”
Source: Bureau of Prisons
One way to help start addressing part of this problem is the bipartisan FIRST STEP Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed earlier this year by a vote of 360-59. The bill would ban the shackling of women during childbirth and currently awaits a vote in the Senate. Meanwhile, the bipartisan Pregnant Women in Custody Act would also prohibit the shackling of federal prisoners who are pregnant or who have given birth within the last eight weeks and establish minimum standards for healthcare for pregnant women, fetuses, and newborns in federal custody.
The BOP reported on research showing that physical and emotional trauma affects as many as 90 percent of the female inmate population and recommends that female inmates undergo trauma treatment early during incarceration. However staffing shortages often makes this impossible, and the mental health treatment often occurs late into their prison term. This is unacceptable if we want to help prisoners to keep from returning after they’ve served their time. How can we expect female prisoners who have suffered trauma outside prison walls to turn their lives around without proper mental health care?
Photo by mikecogh
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for American Enterprise Institute scholar Edward Conard. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.