I left whole, I returned in pieces

Pamela Winn, organizer and JustLeadershipUSA Fellow, speaking at various events

I was also six weeks pregnant. Anytime I had to be transported, I was chained at my ankles with another chain around my waist that bound my hands in front of my belly.

I had no privacy, no counseling, nor any opportunity to grieve my miscarriage.

I left whole, I returned in pieces. Incarceration is a public health issue due to the social and physical determinants of discrimination, crowded conditions, income, and gender.

Pamela with her sons
  • Criminal justice policies that incarcerate parents of dependent children create long-term trauma and mental health effects for children and parents. Expanding the use of alternatives to incarceration to limit this family trauma.
  • Incarceration decreases life expectancy due to exposure to overcrowding, poor access to mental and physical health care, increased risk of violence and injury, poor nutrition and a variety of other factors. Policy changes like California’s Proposition 47, which changes certain felonies into misdemeanors, has reduced thousands of people’s exposure to prison and jail as well as reducing the collateral consequences of having a felony conviction (our in-depth Prop 47 Health Impacts Assessment research evaluated the health and equity impacts of this reform).
  • Shackling women before, during, and after pregnancy is harmful to their health and a risk to the pregnancy, as Pamela’s experience so heartbreakingly demonstrates. And while advocates are working across the country to change this with anti-shackling laws, it is by and large the norm in state correctional institutions.

Get Involved

  • Advocates in Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Tennessee are working to pass bills to expand the use of alternatives to incarceration for people who are primary caretakers of dependent children. Contact Kim Gilhuly for more information on how to add your voice to these primary caretaker campaigns.
  • In Michigan, we’re working with our partners to assess the health impacts of a bill that raises the age for youth being charged as adults from 17 to 18 years of age. Contact Celia Harris for more information on Michigan’s raise the age efforts.

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