Each year the College of Southern Nevada celebrates International Women’s Day with a Status of Women Conference. This year the conference was on Saturday, March 9, 2019, with the theme: Women and the Criminal Justice System.
This theme derived from the work of Nevada’s Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice. Over the course of the 2018 interim session, the ACAJ heard Nevada-specific data the Crime and Justice Institute gathered and presented as well as from supporters of reforms based on the Justice Reinvestment program.
You can view the Commission’s recorded hearings through the legislative website here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/InterimCommittee/REL/Interim2017/Committee/1404/Meetings
The Commission produced twenty-five recommendations for criminal justice reform now contained in Assembly Bill 236, which received its initial legislative hearing on March 8, 2019. You can watch the recording of the hearing through the legislative website here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6419/Meetings
Based on ACAJ’s work, the CSN Women’s Alliance invited community leaders who are working to keep women out of our prisons to participate in the Status of Women Conference 2019.
Our presenters included:
Samuel Packard from the Crime and Justice Institute
Lenore Jean-Baptiste from the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth
Dr. Emily Salisbury, UNLV Associate Professor of Criminal Justice
Bita Yeager, Hearing Master for the 8th Judicial District Mental Health Specialty Court
Jon Ponder, CEO of Hope for Prisoners
Ayesha Kidd, CSN Associate Vice President of Human Resources and instructor for the CSN women’s prison education program
Sherida Divine, Director of the CSN prison education program
We streamed the conference live through our Facebook page and have the recording available here: https://www.facebook.com/CSNWomensAlliance/videos/302831990647629/
Mr. Pickard reviewed data showing a steady and alarming increase in incarceration rates among women in Nevada. The Crime and Justice Institute data also reveals that sixty-percent of these criminal justice involved women are incarcerated for non-violent offenses and tend to suffer from pre-existing trauma and mental health illnesses.
Miss. Jean-Baptiste offered data and perspective on the alarming number of homeless children and the trauma young women and girls suffer when they lack food, shelter, and a safe home environment. She showed us how these girls and young women can easily end up in a detention center due to these circumstances.
Dr. Salisbury described how applying criminal justice practices designed for men to women necessarily creates injustice for justice-involved women. Her research shows that putting women who have already been traumatized by domestic and sexual violence in prison, compounds their trauma in ways that detrimentally impacts the women and their families for years and years.
Hearing Master Bita Yeager helped us understand that mental illness is a physical illness that alters brain functions. Mental health court is one of the specialty courts designed to divert offenders to treatment to address inappropriate behaviors related to their illness. Unfortunately, because of funding limitations, our mental health court system can only accept a fraction of the people who could benefit from the program.
Mr. Jon Ponder outlined the Hope for Prisoners program that provides structured support for formerly incarcerated Nevadans who are transitioning back into the community. Hope for Prisoners assists these Nevadans with treatment plans, housing, and job training.
And Ms. Kidd and Ms. Devine reviewed the College of Southern Nevada prison education program that provides incarcerated women with opportunities to obtain marketable job skills before their release.
Channel 13 covered Hope for Prisoners and the CSN prison education program in this story: https://www.ktnv.com/raisingthebar/hope-for-prisoners-helping-nevada-inmates-with education?fbclid=IwAR311SWBd2RRrDZmLSGhmsM7TFSNaeHoukCha7WR8RevBGx1SMgGlqwBIrE
We ended the conference dedicated to addressing the issue of keeping Nevada’s women out of our criminal justice system, whether we are looking at initial points of contact or reducing recidivism.
If you are interested in supporting AB236 or any other related criminal justice reform legislation, the process is outlined in the League of Women Voters of Nevada Advocacy Guide.
If you would like to attend future Women’s Alliance events, please like our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/CSNWomensAlliance/
PowerPoint presentations from the event are embedded above and you can watch the US Commission on Civil Rights hearing on Women in Prison from February 22nd here: