Leaders Join at the State House Steps for a Common Call to Improve the Lives of Alabama’s Incarcerated Women and Girls and Strengthen Alabama Families, Communities

Montgomery, AL, State House Steps, February 25th, 11:15am — The number of women incarcerated in Alabama has sky-rocketed in the last 30 years at a rate of over 900%, surpassing even the high national rate of over 600%.

 On February 25th, Rep. Barbara Boyd (Commission Co-Chair), state legislators, state agency leaders, advocacy organizations, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Members will gather at the Alabama State House steps to celebrate the release of the Commission on Girls and Women in the Criminal Justice System’s 2010 Report, One Size Does Not Fit All: A Status Report on Recommendations for Gender Responsiveness in Alabama’s Criminal Justice System and to voice a common call for support of HB519 to establish the Commission on Girls and Women in the Criminal Justice System as a permanent commission. HB 519 is sponsored by Representatives Thomas (J), Warren, Kennedy, Guin, Newton (D), Graham, Beech, Robinson (O), Scott, Payne, Hubbard, McClurkin, Wood, Todd, Canfield, Moore (P), Drake, Irons and White.

The Commission on Girls and Women in the Criminal Justice System, a commission comprised of a broad range of stakeholders to improving the gender responsiveness of the state’s criminal justice system, released 8 recommendations in a report, One Size Does Not Fit All: Research and Recommendations for Gender-Responsiveness in Alabama’s Criminal Justice System in 2008.  Since its publication, the Commission has been leading and conducting invaluable inquiries to gauge progress on their recommendations, and fostering new ideas and collaboration improving the lives and success of Alabama’s incarcerated women and girls.  Under existing law, the Commission on Girls and Women in the Criminal Justice System was created by joint resolution and will dissolve in 2010. 

The Commission’s 2010 Status Report contains a table of progress for 2008-2009, charting all new partnerships and programming efforts to address the specific needs of incarcerated women and girls.  In addition, the 2010 Status Report underlines fiscal ramifications resulting from the progress on some recommendations and the very slow progress on others, such as the recommended closing of Julia Tutwiler Prison.

According to research conducted by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, “In March 2007, a report produced for the Alabama Department of Corrections by consultants (Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc., Rosser International, and The Facility Group) found that “Tutwiler is in dire need of a total system overhaul.” The consortia estimated that the projected construction costs of code upgrades, maintenance, and capital improvements required at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women would be approximately $37.4 million. Developing alternatives to incarceration in secure facilities for those offenders who pose little or no threat to public safety will require a comparatively modest investment in programming and careful planning.”

In August 2009, the Commission conducted in-depth tours of Alabama’s women’s prisons, holding a rare and insightful Q&A session with 10 women currently incarcerated at Tutwiler Prison. The focus of the session was to gain an insider’s view into prison life from the women’s perspectives, as well as to hear what systemic changes they suggest for improving conditions for women both in and out of prison (i.e. from arrest to reentry). The session gave Commission members deeper insight into the tangled bureaucracy of Alabama’s criminal justice system, ranging from sentencing to medical services, parole, and reentry services. Additionally, Commission members heard what programs have addressed the women’s needs and what areas still need to be improved.  

Following the August tours, Commission Co-Chair, Representative Barbara Boyd stated, “We have made recommendations, but it is up to the DOC to implement them. The Department of Corrections is beginning to understand the recommendations that we’ve put forth. Today we made a big push toward improving conditions, and closing Tutwiler is our main recommendation. Some improvement at the Montgomery Women’s Facility has been made, with a new air-conditioned building to house supportive programs. However, I am alarmed at the money spent on Tutwiler Prison’s new mental health unit [an estimated 2.5 million] and the additional money that will have to be put into improving the rest of the dilapidated facility if that approach continues.”

Studies and personal stories of female offenders in Alabama and across the U.S. reveal that the majority of women and girls behind bars have been victims of abuse, either as a child, as an adult, or both. Many crimes are committed to escape abuse and are often committed for survival (e.g. bad checks to take care of family members, including children). By breaking down the numbers of Alabama’s imprisoned women by their offense, and even further by their needs (e.g. substance abuse treatment, PTSD treatment, mental health needs, etc.), one sees that opportunities for improved rehabilitation and alternatives to incarceration are indeed possible and wildly apparent. 

Present on Thursday, February 25th will be Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (AKA) members, whose enduring focus has been the betterment of women and girls and strong families. The goals of AKA could not be more intrinsically tied to the work of the Commission. Seventy percent of Alabama’s women in prison are non-violent offenders, with half of those incarcerated on drug charges. Increasing incarceration of women and girls destroys families and smart reforms and policies must be enacted quickly to preserve families and strengthen their success.

Improved, gender-responsive facilities, programming, and services, as well as careful planning, and system-wide collaboration, are the focus of the Commission and are evident in both its 2008 and 2010 Reports.  The establishment of the Commission in past years and the prospect of its permanent future are critical to the betterment of women and girls in the criminal justice system and to the development of a gender-responsive system.


OK Legislature Reducing Women in Prison

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B.O.S.S. Program Seminar this Thursday!

Read today’s Dothan Eagle feature of Businesses Offering Second Chances and Support (B.O.S.S.) here.


“The B.O.S.S. program they’re offering over at Saliba is business outreach, giving second-chance felons a chance at employment in Dothan,” said Nelson, who used the program to gain employment at Outback Steakhouse last year. “When I got out in 2007, there were no programs for people who come home. Due to the fact I couldn’t get a job, I wound up right back in trouble and ended up at community corrections. Through the help of everybody at Houston County Community Corrections, my probation officer, I got this job and they’ve allowed me to go back to school at Wallace (Community College).”

Nelson says he owes “99 percent” of his new life to Alfred Saliba Family Services’ B.O.S.S. program.

“They’ve got a job readiness course, how to fill out a resume, how to conduct yourself in an interview, a computer for online interviews and online job applications, they help everyone at community corrections at one point or another, and it allows you to get the knowledge you need to succeed in the community,” said Nelson, who has held his position at Outback for nine months.

B.O.S.S. Seminar
Alfred Saliba Family Services Center

Dothan, AL
February 18th, 9-11am

Chicago Tribune: Lawmakers to host baby shower at women’s prison

Please read below or here about the amazing personal connection Indiana lawmakers are making with women in prison and their newborns.  Really inspiring!

INDIANAPOLIS – State lawmakers will host a baby shower at the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis.

Legislators also will eat lunch prepared by some of the inmates Wednesday.

The state Department of Correction says Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, and Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, solicited gifts from other lawmakers after members of a women’s caucus became interested in the Wee Ones Nursery at the prison. The gifts will be presented Wednesday.

The program for pregnant offenders began in early 2008 and is one of six similar programs in the nation. It provides parenting education and is aimed at strengthening the mother-infant bond.

To live with their newborns in the separate unit, mothers must have never been convicted of violent crimes and have less than 18 months left on their sentences.

Listen: 20 Years Of Defending Death Row Inmates (NPR’s Fresh Air)

Taken from npr.org (listen here):

Attorney David Dow has made a career out of defending death row inmates in Texas — a state that boasts the highest number of death row executions nation-wide since 1976. Many of his clients have died — most of them were guilty.

But Dow says they should have been sentenced to life in prison instead of death at the hands of the state.

“The person that we’re executing is simply not the same person who committed the crime that landed that person on death row in the first place,” Dow says.

Dow’s new book, The Autobiography of an Execution, is in part an exploration of the politics behind the death penalty and an argument for its abolition. It’s also a memoir; Dow delves into how this line of work has affected his family life.

David Dow is the litigation director at the Texas Defender Service and teaches law at the University of Houston Law Center. He joins Terry Gross for a conversation about his new book and why we need to put an end to the capital punishment.


The winter chill may become a bit more bearable with the news of the sophomore Anybody Can Serve, So Let’s Conserve energy efficiency campaign, which will pay three months’ worth of energy bills for a winning family.

A collaborative effort of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, AARP and the Council of State Governments, among other groups, Anybody Can Serve was introduced last year as a way to commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by making it a day of service.

This second year of the campaign features the “30-60-90 Day Challenge” in which each state will choose one low- to middle-income family (with a household income no greater than $50,000) to participate in a conservation challenge. Each of the selected families will receive an Energy Efficiency Toolkit containing energy-efficient light bulbs, a water-heater insulation blanket, weather stripping and caulk to use on their home. They will also receive a webcam to aid them in documenting their conservation efforts through video blogs, which will be posted on the Anybody Can Serve website.

Participating families will be asked to submit their utility bills from April, May and June of 2009 to establish a baseline cost for their utility services. After weatherizing their homes and installing the efficiency devices, they will report their utility bills for April, May and June 2010. The family that shows the greatest gain in efficiency will have their utility bills paid for three months.

Please enter, or encourage qualifying families you know to enter, the Anybody Can Serve 30-60-90 Day Challenge. They can reach the online registration site from a link on the Alabama Public Service Commission’s home on the web: www.psc.alabama.gov.