The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls (The Council or NCFIWG), held its first organizing meeting in New York City on December 2015. Since then, the Council has been convening organizing meetings state by state. Thousands of formerly incarcerated women and girls have participated in the meetings. Our goal is to include the participation of women and girls in federal and state prisons, county and state jails, and immigrant detention centers.
The two primary purposes of the Council are: 1) To ensure that no policies, laws, practices, organizing and services are made about women and girls who are or were incarcerated without including our voices, experiences and ideas for creating more effective outcomes. Our mantra is “Nothing about us, without us!” Through support, awareness and advocacy, the Council is committed to collectively building new and just policy grounded in social justice, human rights and dignity.
2) To support the work of each of us, as incarcerated or formerly incarcerated women and girls, whether we act as individuals or as organizations. The Council is a place where members support one another by sharing the knowledge and powerful experiences of the women and girls most affected by current criminal legal policies who know the realities of incarceration, the many hurdles women face after returning home, and the harm done to families and communities by the carceral state. We speak and organize from our own experiences and in our own voices.
Effective systems are based on Human rights. Human rights are based on the principle of the dignity of each individual.
The carceral state, has taken away the freedom and human rights of the incarcerated and also many non-incarcerated people. The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls calls for the end of the practices, procedures, laws and policy that have resulted in systems focused on punishment and control, that combined, have created the carceral state.
By carceral state we mean the 2.2 million people in jails and prisons, the 8 million more who are under some form of correctional control, on probation, parole, in immigrant detention centers and in drug courts. The millions held in jail, mostly due to an inability to afford bail. The two million children with an incarcerated parent and the millions of family members whose loved ones are incarcerated. The tens of millions of people living in communities controlled by extreme policing and the police militarization of communities of color. The $80 billion a year spent on prisons and jails and the millions of people working as guards, “counselors”, “health care” providers, and prison bureaucrats. The privatization of parole and probation. The price gouging by corporations controlling food, communication, and commissary purchases of incarcerated people. The unchecked and overly harsh culture of prosecution that too often results in a defendant’s not exercising their right to trial and a jury of their peers, while extracting plea bargains resulting in excessive and overly harsh sentencing in more than 95% of cases.
Based on our experiences as incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and girls, we recognize the need to address each and all of the above for the wellness and advancement of our sisters, children, families and communities. We recognize the difference between reform in regard to the immediate needs of incarcerated women and girls and the end of the system of mass incarceration, mass criminalization and the carceral state that has become normalized in our society.
Before, during and after incarceration the Council’s areas of organizing and advocacy
Policy Advocacy • Inclusion of the voices, experiences and ideas of formerly incarcerated women in policy making • Drafting and advocating for model legislation most especially for community-based, community-run alternatives to incarceration.
Public Awareness • Raising public awareness about who are incarcerated women and girls and the affect of their criminalization and incarceration on families and communities • Symposiums, conferences and panel discussions on policy from the voices of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and girls
Community Based Justice Reinvestment • Consideration of use of community based alternatives to incarceration in all sentencing • Diversion in sentencing for primary caretakers of dependent children • Increase of on-demand, community-based addiction treatment for women and girls • Affordable and accessible housing including transitional housing funding • Education, skills training, and entrepreneurial opportunities • Eradication of blanket professional licensing restrictions • Prison / jail building moratorium
Conditions of Confinement in Prisons, Jails and Detention Centers • Participation and connection to social justice projects during incarceration • Ability to organize and use our voices publicly in the dialogue for more effective policy and to receive guidance and support from formerly incarcerated women and girls • Expanding family visitation • Advocating for the rights of children of incarcerated parents • Cost free family video and phone calling • Gender specific medical care • Appropriate education and care for women with HIV, AIDS and Hep C including providing Hep C treatment which has proved effective for a cure • Mental health and illness of addiction services • Access to appropriate feminine hygiene products, including condoms and mouth guards • Gender specific programming informed by formerly incarcerated women • Housing conditions within the prison which respect the rights and dignity of women and girls • Ending the use of solitary confinement • Ending shackling of women during pregnancy, labor and delivery, providing quality pre and post-natal care. • Ending videotaping of strip searches • Ending use of dehumanizing terms such as “inmate” • Ongoing, regular and consistent training of corrections officers and prison staff that includes training designed and implemented by incarcerated women and families members • Compassionate release for the aging, elderly and infirmed • G.E.D., restoration of PELL Grants and other college degree opportunities • Access to full and complete state and federal legal research • In accordance with the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners we demand that the United States allow United Nations inspectors be allowed to visit prisons and jails to verify that the needs of incarcerated women and girls are being addressed. • Acknowledgment and protection of reproductive rights of women during incarceration • Continuous review and granting of clemency
Prosecution, Charging, Sentencing and Parole • Instituting bail reform in every city, county and state • Eradication of prolonged and extreme sentencing • Ending the sentence of life without the possibility of parole. • Holding prosecutors responsible for prosecutorial conduct • Ending sentence stacking • Ending sentence enhancements • Ending conspiracy charges • Domestic violence and sexual abuse as recognizable mitigating factors • Shifting from drug courts to community based treatment on demand • The release of U.S. held political prisoners in keeping with the international human rights initiatives that have seen the release of political prisoners in almost all other countries • Reinstate federal parole • Parole Boards that include defense attorneys, psychologists with a background in youth development, practitioners with substance use disorder specialties, formerly incarcerated women and men. • Ending extended federal probation post completion of a federal sentence • Decriminalize all drugs
• Eliminating dehumanizing parole and probation practices such as blanket drug testing policies and excessive, unwarranted testing • Funding egal and counseling services to facilitate parent/child/family reunification • Collaboration with probate and family courts prior to reentry • Transitional Housing Fund / subsidized housing and incentives for private landlords • Educational/ skills and entrepreneurial training opportunities • Ban the Box in employment, housing and college applications • End probation/parole policies that automatically preclude released people from communicating with formerly convicted people. • End prison/jail visitation policy that bars formerly incarcerated people from visiting prisons and jails. • Ongoing, consistent and regular training of parole and probation officers, including training created by formerly incarcerated people and family members • End of gross income deductions paid to halfway houses and exorbitant probation /parole fees • Halfway house living conditions inspected by teams of qualified specialists, including formerly incarcerated people • Support and fund community-based and community-base half-way houses and treatment centers rather than privatized half-way houses and treatment centers. • Ongoing, and consistent halfway house staff training, including training designed and implemented by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people • End of use of leg shackles while on probation / parole • Hiring of formerly incarcerated people to staff halfway houses • Formerly Incarcerated people in leadership, decision making roles in NGOs and reentry programs • Expand the use of record sealing, expungement and employment certifications • Counseling on demand • Reinstatement of voting rights • Reinstatement of SNAP benefits, access to public housing, Sec.8 and TANF for formerly incarcerates women.
April 15, 2016