Say NO to new jails in Massachusetts! Tell legislators you oppose S1297: “An Act establishing an eastern Massachusetts women’s county corrections facility.”
Call Senator Karen Spilka, Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the lead sponsor of this bill: 617-722-1640
Call Representative Brian Dempsey, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee: 617-722-2990
New jails are not the answer. We need a moratorium on jail building until Massachusetts invests in bail reform and alternatives to incarceration. Please vote against S1297.
How we got here:
The Senate Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee favorably voted S1297 out of Committee and now it is on the move to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We can’t let it get any further.
The chair of that powerful Committee is Senator Karen Spilka, the author of the bill. It is possible that the bill can be stopped there. If it is not, it goes to the House Ways and Means Committee, where it can also be stopped. In the Ways and Means Committees there will be no hearings. If it is not stopped, it will go to the House and Senate for a vote. We must stop it here.
If passed, a new jail would be built for women who are pre-trial (that is they have not been convicted of anything) and sentenced women.
Massachusetts now spends more than half a billion dollars a year locking up about 10,000 people in jails. It costs approximately $4,600 a month to do this. The majority of people are there because they cannot make even low bail. The vast majority of women who are sentenced have been convicted of non-violent offenses.
No new jails for women should be built in Massachusetts until the two bills below are passed and given a chance to work. If enacted and fully implemented, this legislation would significantly reduce the number of women being held pretrial as well as the number of women who are sentenced to serve time.
1. Bail Reform (H.1584 & S.802) would base pre-trial detention on whether an individual is likely to show up for her court date, rather than on her ability to pay bail. Every year in Massachusetts thousands of women are jailed before trial, many because they cannot afford to pay bail of less than $1,000. According to the Massachusetts Women’s Justice Network, 85% of women held pretrial are charged with non-violent offenses; many are single mothers of children under age 18 whose lives are disrupted.
2. Alternative Sentencing for Primary Caretakers (H.1382) would create
sentencing alternatives for parents convicted of non-violent offenses who have primary responsibility for their dependent children.
We believe no new jails should be built without a thorough public debate and before realistic, less costly and less damaging alternatives like bail reform are put in place and given a chance to work. Taxpayer money should be used to invest in pretrial services and community-based, community-run wellness alternatives, which are much less costly in terms of dollars and also in terms of the emotional, psychological, physical and relational harms experienced by men and women who needlessly spend weeks or months in jail.
Supporters of this bill argue that we need a new jail for women to improve the living conditions of the women who are incarcerated. We can improve their living conditions by getting them out of jail through bail reform and alternatives to incarceration!
We are asking you to do three simple things:
Step One: Please call the Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee: Sen. Karen Spilka, 617-722-1640, and the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Brian Dempsey, 617-722-2990.
Step Two: Please look through the list of legislators on the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees. If one or more of your legislators sits on one of the Committees, please call them as well.
Calls will take you 5 minutes.
This is the message:
New jails are not the answer. We need a moratorium on jail building until Massachusetts invests in bail reform and alternatives to incarceration. Ask them to please vote against S1297.
Step Three: Please do this today. When you have made the calls, please share widely with your networks.
The Ad Hoc Coalition to Stop the Women's Jail
For more information: Lois Ahrens- Lois@realcostofprisons.org
Flyer - Stop Building New Jails in Massachusetts!
Please read this important information. Please download and print and share widely.
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