As I mentioned in an earlier post on this blog, I’ll be heading to Albuquerque, New Mexico, from February 21 to 26 to participate in the Prisoners’ Family Conference. Carolyn Esparza, director of Community Solutions of El Paso (the organization hosting this conference), invited Jodie and I to lead an advocacy workshop at the conference in addition to speaking about Razor Wire Women. Unfortunately, Jodie will not be able to attend the conference, but I will keep her in the loop about all that happens there. Part of the work that Carolyn Esparza charged me with doing in the advocacy workshop is to collaboratively develop a Bill of Rights for Prisoners’ Families with the conference attendees who come to the session. Whether you are able to come to the conference in Albuquerque or not, I would love to hear from people reading this blog about what types of things should be included in this document. Our hope is that this Bill of Rights for Prisoners’ Families could be taken to state and federal legislators to help them better understand our needs and to establish a path to legal recourse for prisoners’ family members who have been denied access to visitation or vital information about their incarcerated loved ones.
Here is a very preliminary list of the kinds of issues that I think that a Bill of Rights for Prisoners’ Families should address:
- Prisoners’ families were neither tried nor convicted of the crimes for which their incarcerated loved ones were sent to prison, and our rights are related to but distinct from the rights of incarcerated people.
- Prisoners’ family members, particularly children, should be guaranteed regular access to their incarcerated loved ones in the forms of visitation, phone calls, and written correspondence.
- Prisoners’ family members should have extended visitation rights when a prisoner is hospitalized or severely ill.
- Prisoners’ families should be informed in a timely manner when prisoners are injured, diagnosed with a serious illness, or having a medical procedure.
- Prisoners’ family members should be informed in a timely manner when prisoners are transferred to another prison or jail and when they are released from state custody.
- The process for notifying prisoners’ family members about a prisoner’s transfer to another facility, release from prison, death, or medical problems should be codified, and the procedures should be written down and communicated to prisoners’ family members.
- When applicable, prisoners’ family members should be allowed to participate in treatment and reentry programming for prisoners so that they can aid in prisoners’ recovery and preparation for reentry.
Please comment on this post and/or contact me through the Contact Us portion of this website to add your concerns, thoughts, and constructive criticism to the drafting of a Bill of Rights for Prisoners’ Families. This document will be more effective and more comprehensive if many prisoners’ family members contribute to it. I will provide updates on this website after the conference about the process of drafting this document and where the conference participants imagine that it might be used.
If you will be attending the Prisoners’ Family Conference and would like to participate in the advocacy workshop, please look for my name in the conference program. Your thoughts and presence would be most welcome.