Senator Bailey, Assemblywoman Rozic Announce Law to Create Gender Equity in Rehabilitation Programs in State Correctional Facilities

October 31, 2017

New York – Today, State Senator Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx) and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D,WF-Queens) announced that legislation they authored (A2534/S3498) to ensure rehabilitation programs in state correctional facilities for women inmates are equivalent to programs afforded to men has been signed into law by Governor Cuomo.

“The majority of women in the prison system that are affected by this, are of color, and already in a marginalized environment. It is upsetting that in today’s world, women are still struggling for equal rights,” said Senator Bailey. “I am proud to sponsor this bill with Assemblywoman Nily Rozic that will provide rehabilitative resources to women who are part of our prison system and will improve the process in ensuring that they have the best aid in their journey to becoming once more productive members of society.”

“It is increasingly evident that there is a need to improve programming at women’s correctional facilities,” said Assemblywoman Rozic, who has visited and met with inmates at all three women’s facilities. “This new law is a step forward in ensuring that women inmates have access to academic learning and employment-based training that lead to successful re-entry and re-integration into the community. I thank Senator Bailey for his leadership on this issue and the Governor for approving this measure.”

The new law would require the warden or chief administrative officer of a facility to provide that women inmates have access to programs of rehabilitation, including vocational, academic, and industrial equivalent to what is provided to men elsewhere in state operated facilities. Such programs are critical in offering training to women and men while incarcerated in preparation of seeking viable employment upon release.

“The Correctional Association applauds Assemblymember Rozic for her efforts, and the Assembly and Senate for their support”, said Gail T. Smith, Director of their Women in Prison Project. “We hope that the new law will bring strong, high-quality programming that will lead women to employment actually available in their communities, and will enhance women’s ability to support themselves and their families,” said Gail Smith, Director, Correctional Association of New York’s Women in Prison Project.

“The Women’s Prison Association is pleased by the passage of Assembly Bill A2534 and hopeful that its implementation will make New York communities safer and more just by equally supporting the needs of incarcerated women and men. Women with criminal justice involvement are more likely than men to have experienced trauma, to have active mental health needs upon arrest, and to be the primary caregivers of their children before and after incarceration. Beyond equal access to services, those services must be gender-responsive to best address the circumstances that lead women to prison and decrease their likelihood of returning. In addition to vocational and academic programs, WPA hopes to see state facilities provide women with programming that addresses their specific needs including but not limited to mental health care, parenting support, and pre-release planning that ensures safe and stable housing upon release. When possible, we believe those services are more effective when provided within the community and not in prison which exacerbates trauma and mental illness, separates families, and weakens communities. In all considerations for increased public safety, WPA supports a limited use of incarceration, gender-responsive services aimed at keeping families together, and equal access to the tools needed for success in the community,” said Diana McHugh, Director of Communications, Women’s Prison Association.

Though women inmates generally have access to as many programs afforded to men, they tend to have less variety in employment and learning opportunities over the course of their incarceration. Women with long sentences must serve them at Bedford Correctional Facility because it is the only maximum security facility. As a result, they are limited in the types of vocational training made available to them. One program in particular offers telephone customer service center training for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. The differences in programming for women and men are a greater reflection of the work that remains for the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in addressing the unique needs of women inmates – whether it concerns vocational and academic training or healthcare.

Many of the vocational and industrial programs offered to men train them to work in these male-dominated occupations upon release. Without the opportunity to sharpen appropriate skills, women would have more difficulty competing for those non-traditional occupational occupations, such as construction and building maintenance, upon their release. The new law is set to take effect before the end of the year and would ensure that employment-based training and marketable skills development are made available to incarcerated women, increasing chances at successful re-entry.