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Legislators Welcome Report on Reentry Services for Women

Trenton – Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Sandra Cunningham, Senator Nellie Pou, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg praised the work of the Commission on Reentry Services for Women and its recommendations to reduce barriers and enhance opportunities for the successful transition into society for former women prisoners.

The 15-member commission, established by the Legislature, released its report today outlining its findings and recommendations for the Legislature and Governor to review.

The report recognizes the importance of services behind the walls as well as in the community, and will serve as a roadmap to address reentry needs of women. It focuses on five major areas: healthcare, employment, domestic violence, family reunification and housing.

Report – Commission on Reentry Services for Women:

Many of the women in need of reentry support have lives pained by sexual abuse, drug addiction, and domestic violence, according to the report. The trauma of prison and reentry have only made their lives more difficult. According to The Sentencing Project, “the female incarcerated population is now nearly eight times higher than in 1980, and more than 60% of women in state prisons have a child under the age of 18.”

“The successful reentry of former women offenders is a proven way of reducing recidivism and improving their opportunities to be successful members of society. We know that reentry can succeed, but we need to remove the barriers and provide the services that will allow people to make a success of their lives. For women, the obstacles can be even greater. Everyone deserves a second chance and we need to give them fair opportunities to succeed,” said Senate President Sweeney, who sponsored the legislation that created the Reentry Services Commission.  

“While the state has taken significant strides in creating an environment conducive to the rehabilitation of individuals being released from prison, there continue to be significant barriers to successful reentry for women. Formerly incarcerated women have significantly higher rates of physical and mental health issues, making access to screening and healthcare during incarceration and after release essential to successful reintegration. This report provides a blueprint for change that will help them succeed,” said Senator Cunningham, who serves on the Reentry Services Commission.

“The reports that have come out of Edna Mahan in recent years have made it abundantly clear that we are failing our incarcerated women in this state. While we have worked hard to enact reforms, it is simply not enough. I look forward to reviewing the legislative recommendations of this report and I am hopeful it will allow us to better serve women both while they are incarcerated and once they are released,” said Senator Pou.

“If our criminal justice system is ever going to truly focus on rehabilitation, we have to do everything we can to prepare those incarcerated for their release and ensure they have access to the mental and physical health services they need. I am grateful the Commission on Reentry Services for Women has created this comprehensive roadmap and I look forward to advancing their recommendations so we can better meet the needs of formerly incarcerated women,” said Senator Ruiz.

“Research has shown that the best way to overcome the barriers that inhibit a former offender’s ability to succeed in reentry is to begin to act on day-one of incarceration. Once an individual reenters society, their likelihood of becoming a contributing member of their community is dependent on whether they can secure meaningful employment, find a place to live, and have the education and skills necessary to advance in life,” said Senate Majority Leader Weinberg.