Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman wrote a great op-ed in the New York Times urging her former prison to reconsider relocating prisoners that fake Larry probably wishes he thought of first.
This month, the federal Bureau of Prisons will begin transferring the more than 1,000 women incarcerated in the main facility at Danbury, the sole women-only federal prison in the Northeast, to other prisons across the country to convert it to a men’s prison (the Bureau says it'll ease overcrowding). This is a big move: these women will be funneled away to a prison in Alabama, and that's if they're lucky not to be transferred even farther away.
For prisoners' families, which more often than not have limited resources, "these new locations might as well be the moon," Kerman writes. "A mother’s incarceration has a devastating effect on her family, and experts say that maintaining contact with a parent in prison is critical to a child’s well-being. One in 28 children has a parent in prison today, and Danbury houses the mothers of at least 700 children."
But it doesn't have to be this way:
There is an alternative to moving prisoners far from their families. This past spring, an ambitious new program, JusticeHome, was started by the Women’s Prison Association in New York City, on whose board I serve. It aims to do the opposite of what the bureau plans: It will allow some women who plead guilty to felonies to remain in their homes with their children. The women will report regularly to court and will be visited several times weekly by case managers to make sure they receive supervision and guidance about jobs, education, their homes and children. The cost of JusticeHome, which is being paid by the city, will be about $15,000 per woman, far less than it would cost to incarcerate her for one year.
Harshly punitive drug laws and diminishing community mental health resources have landed many women in prison who simply do not belong there, often for shockingly long sentences. What is priceless about JusticeHome, however, is that it is working not only to rehabilitate women but to keep families together — which we know is an effective way to reduce crime and to stop a cycle that can condemn entire families to the penal system.
We'd throw our pie for that.