"In May of last year, Fair submitted her public-records requests for the DAVID and criminal background searches performed on her. She also persuaded fellow mermaid Smiley, whom Mia also occasionally attacked on social media, and their boss Anderson to submit identical requests."

shot dead

Grand Rapids Police Department released multiple videos last week of the deadly traffic stop that led to Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, being shot dead by police officers. The Michigan State Police are leading the criminal investigation into the shooting and will forward evidence to county prosecutors. The Washington Post (April 14, 2022)

more police on more police

After a man shot up a subway car full of people in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he would double the number of police officers on subways. But there already is a heavy police presence in the subway. From the beginning of his term, Adams has made aggressive policing of subways a centerpiece of his administration. Within a month of taking office, he had already flooded the system with 1,000 additional officers. The Intercept (April 13, 2022)


A woman’s arrest after her abortion in Texas, caused national outcry and fear about the state criminalizing women’s healthcare, but the truth of the situation may come down to an error by a first-term Democratic district attorney. The state law “explicitly exempts a woman from a criminal homicide charge for aborting her pregnancy.” People on both sides of the abortion issue condemned her arrest. The Washington Post (April 13, 2022)

imprisoned with poison

Illinois prison and health officials made misleading and inconsistent statements about a Legionella outbreak at several state prisons last month, according to records and interviews with incarcerated people. Advocates and prison watchdogs say the inconsistencies highlight long-standing problems with accountability and oversight of the prison system’s water treatment practices. During routine water testing. When inhaled into the lungs, Legionella can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially deadly form of pneumonia. Injustice Watch (April 12, 2022)

a death in shadows

Her husband died after he was transferred from jail to a hospital. Now members of the jail's oversight board and her have questions about her husband undergoing surgery and having a Do Not Resuscitate code issued when she never even knew he was even in the hospital. It took two months for her to learn details about his death. PINJ (April 12, 2022)

slow moving

A government watchdog found a “substantial likelihood” the federal Bureau of Prisons committed wrongdoing when it ignored complaints and failed to address asbestos and mold contamination at a federal women’s prison in California that has already been under scrutiny for rampant sexual abuse of inmates. AP (April 12, 2022)

no follow up

"The Senate delivered former President Donald Trump a bipartisan criminal justice reform deal shortly after the last midterm election. Staging a sequel for President Joe Biden this year won’t be so easy. Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, are still in talks over finalizing a package that would serve as a more narrow follow-up to the 2018 prison and sentencing reform bill known as the First Step Act." POLITICO (Mar. 9, 2022)


A panel of state lawmakers moved to make possession of any more than 1 gram of a substance containing fentanyl a felony in Colorado, undoing part of a bipartisan 2019 law that made possession of up to 4 grams of a controlled substance a misdemeanor. Nearly 2,000 people have died after ingesting substances containing fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin, since 2015. Colorado Newsline (April 14, 2022)

must read: how a mermaid took down a sheriff

"It began with online attacks from Mia and her husband Jeff and became worse when the couple moved in next door to Fair’s home in Fort Lauderdale. [...] Fair says the scariest part of it all is that Jeff has the power of the badge: He’s a lieutenant with the Broward Sheriff’s Office" Miami New Times (April 20, 2022)




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For Some Medical Marijuana Patients, Non-Profits Fill Gaps in Accessibility

Photography by Taylor Ecker for This is Jane Project.

For Some Medical Marijuana Patients, Non-Profits Fill Gaps in Accessibility

Because marijuana remains subject to federal prohibitions, some patients find their medication financially out of reach even in states that have legalized it.

By LJ Dawson
By LJ Dawson

Founder of The Des and freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C.

Charlene, 50-years-old now, moved across the country in 2015, uprooting her life from New York to settle in Northern California. What drove her was the search for a place where she could legally use marijuana to treat the symptoms of her uterine fibroids, which were so large she looked eight months pregnant.  (New York didn’t create a medical marijuana program until 2016, which was severely limited by the tiny number of licensees, and the list of qualifying conditions was incredibly restrictive.)

In over two decades since her fibroid diagnosis, marijuana is the only medicine that effectively treats her life debilitating chronic health issue. The same fibroids affecting Charlene occur in more than 70% of women, 25-50% of whom show clinical symptoms. Fibroids appear earlier and with more severity in Black women than in white, according to the National Institute of Child and Human Development. Charlene, a Black woman, was diagnosed at 28-years-old. 

Fibroids appear earlier and with more severity in Black women than in white. Charlene, a Black woman, was diagnosed at 28-years-old.

Doctors originally prescribed birth control pills to Charlene to help regulate her period and heavy bleeding (her periods became regular but the bleeding was still heavy), and Anaprox to help with the pain. They also prescribed Lupron to help reduce the size of the fibroids before she had surgery to remove them, but the drug threw her into premature menopause, causing significant mood swings, hot flashes and it didn’t reduce the size, she said.

She had her first surgery a year after her diagnosis. In that time her fibroids grew from baseball size to the size of a five month fetus. The myomectomy, which involves essentially performing a c-section to remove the fibroids, left her recovering for weeks. The surgery ultimately did not work for her: her tumors not only grew back, but grew back larger.  “Five to six years later they were back,” she said. 

Dr.Tiffany Bowden

In 2008, doctors suggested another surgery for her five-month-fetus sized fibroids. But when  the economic crash happened and she lost her job at a bank, she also lost her insurance to have the surgery.

Things were looking up for Charlene, two years of living in California and ingesting raw juiced cannabis and full spectrum left her fibroids in recession. A 2017 MRI showed them degenerating. 


But then the Tubbs Fire burned through Sonoma. Taking her house, all the plants, cannabis products and much of the town she lived in. 


She had a small batch of cannabis oil she rationed for a few months then it was nothing. She was couch surfing. Her condition had improved enough over the years of using cannabis oil that she didn’t need to take pain killers. “All of the ground that I gained as far as shrinkage, I lost,” she said. 

Unable to afford to pay out-of-pocket for cannabis from dispensaries and unable to utilize any insurance coverage because of the continuing federal prohibition on all legal marijuana use, Charlene went without  — until last summer, when she found a compassionate gifting program to provide cannabis for her. By the time she found Survivors without Access, This is Jane Project’s SB-34 compliant compassion program, her fibroids had grown to make her look eight months pregnant. 

People of color, women and non-binary people have traditionally faced more hurdles to access all medical treatments, and marijuana has been no different. Charlene’s case is just one more example of how legalizing the medical use of marijuana doesn’t remove the roadblocks of cost and availability to patients.

“It’s legal, but not necessarily accessible,” Charlene told The Des. “And if it’s accessible, it’s not necessarily affordable.” 

“It's legal, but not necessarily accessible,” Charlene told The Des. “And if it's accessible, it's not necessarily affordable.”

Because of the severity of her symptoms, she often has difficulty finding work in her industry due to her condition. “It’s very frustrating to know something can heal you, but then it’s something I don’t have the money for so I can’t [use it].”

This is Jane gifting products. Credit: This is Jane Project

Charlene’s marijuana was provided to her after the This Is Jane Project, an existing compassionate cannabis gifting non-profit, launched a second gifting program, Survivors Without Access, last summer. It specifically focuses on getting medicinal cannabis to women and non-binary people who are survivors of trauma whether sexual or gender based or more general trauma like losing your home to wildfire like Charlene. And Survivors Without Access, in partnerships including partnerships with Eaze, Miss Grass, and Dear Cannabis, has given out over 300 compassion donations. Each one generally includes a variety of products from cannabis flower to edibles, tinctures, pain creams, and concentrates. 

“[The program] actually makes it accessible and affordable, which is what I need,” Charlene explained. ”Especially when you’re feeling like you can’t go out and get a second job when you can barely get one job right now,” she said. Charlene received two deliveries of cannabis products as part of This is Jane Project’s first initiative. “My condition is improving just in this short period of time,” she said.  “With what I’ve been able to ingest, I’ve lost three inches off my waistline so that tells me that my tumors are reducing.”

In California, The Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act of 2019 allowed already licensed cannabis retailers to provide free cannabis to medical card users or primary care givers. 

In 2019 Shannon DeGrooms, the executive director of This is Jane Project, became inspired to start the new project because she did not see a gifting organization that specifically supported women and non-binary trauma survivors. 

“I think it is utterly important because women are disproportionately victims of violence and various traumas,” DeGrooms told The Des.

“I think it is utterly important because women are disproportionately victims of violence and various traumas,” DeGrooms told The Des. 


In addition to providing compassionate use cannabis, the This is Jane Project also partners with Leafwell to offer medical cannabis cards for $19 instead of the typical $150-100 cost — and all its services are provided to women, transgender and non-binary people.


“It’s important to understand that women are at risk for a lot of different conditions especially as it relates to mental health, some of those being anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, substance abuse,” Tiffany Bowden, a This Is Jane Project board member and anti-racism educator, diversity and communication specialist, said. 

Recipients of This is Jane Project’s first gifting program. Credit: This is Jane Project

And women, women of color, transgender and non-binary people face higher rates of domestic abuse, she added, highlighting the need for a compassionare care program aimed at them specifically. 

“Socio-economic factors — combined with having to navigate systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, and other societal conditions — exacerbate already existing conditions such as PTSD and anxiety,” Bowden explained. 

“Cannabis is often a safer alternative than many of the prescribed medications that are available,” to treat those conditions, Bowden said. “Also, cannabis is significantly cheaper than many of those alternatives, particularly if you're engaging through a compassionate care program.”

DeGrooms hopes to expand This Is Jane across the country as more states legalize cannabis. 


Charlene said she thinks about when she was first diagnosed and her fibroids were only the size of an orange. “What if my treatment was cannabis oil then? My tumors would not have grown, it would not have disrupted my life, and put me on this track.”


“Cannabis is real medicine,” she said. “The work that this is Jane is doing is very necessary. As someone who’s benefiting from it, I have so much gratitude for the program.”


To sign up for the compassionate gifting program visit This is Jane Project. 


Our Latest

More Voices of Justice To Come

Still locked out of the ballot box

 An estimated 4.6 million Americans are still unable to vote due to felony records despite reforms. This includes more than one in 10 Black adults in eight states – Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia.


Bail industry gets away with murder, costing defendants and citizens alike

An investigation was published indicating that six NYC bail bond companies were using fake trade names in order to continue operations without being shut down by state officials for large amounts of debt. The ability of agencies to continue to profit off of the bail system despite state laws that allow officials to suspend agencies owing large sums of money is the sixth loophole emphasized by the report.


Mass incarceration punishes kids too

The arrest of a parent can be traumatic and severe for children whose parents are incarcerated, causing emotional, physical, educational and financial well-being difficulties. According to a  new study, kids of incarcerated parents are likely to become incarcerated themselves.

More Voices of Justice To Come


"In Fresno, the city allocated more than double of its Cares money to police than it did to Covid testing, contact tracing, small business grants, childcare vouchers and transitional housing combined. Oakland’s police allocation was greater than the amounts spent on a housing initiative, a small business grant program and a workforce initiative."



mugshots could be protected in LA; covid relief was sunk into to law enforcement, they’re spending it on armoured vehicles and drones; police officer who shot Amir Locke is not charged

standard of privacy

The Louisiana Legislature is considering a bill that would remove most mug shots from public record and prevent the photos being published by news outlets in stories about arrests. Utah and Illinois have already enacted similar laws. Louisiana Illuminator (Mar. 23, 2022)


The Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, in a no-knock raid earlier this year will not face charges. A 44-page joint report, ruled that it was reasonable that the officer perceived a threat and was justified in using deadly force. WCCO (April 6, 2022)

covid relief rained $$$ of law enforcement

Most large California cities used covid funds and Biden's signature stimulus package as million dollar cash injections into local law enforcement. Budgeting records make it difficult to see how the departments used the funds, and it was recently reported that other states are buying new surveillance tech with the funds. The Guardian (April. 7, 2022)

covid relief is outfitting police departments

State and local officials are spending funds from Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion relief package on drones, armored vehicles and license plate readers. VICE (Mar. 29, 2022)

prison tiktok

Prison TikTok is a new viral section of the app dominated by former and current incarcerated people detailing life inside and after prison. There are few content creators of color though, raising questions about the algorithm. The Marshall Project (April. 7, 2022)

history revisited

NYC’s mayor and NYPD announced a new initiative to respond to violent crime which will include cracking down on dice games, public drinking and selling drugs. A retired officer said that it is a return to broken windows policing. “It’s never the tools that are wrong, it’s the innocent people that are abused by the officers that don’t follow the law when applying those tools.” The Davis Vanguard (April 4, 2022)

Must read: fire squads resume

"On Thursday, South Carolina scheduled the execution of Richard Moore — convicted of murder in a 2001 convenience story robbery — for April 29. Because state officials say they can’t secure lethal injection drugs, they will give him the choice between the electric chair and the firing squad. Officials have spent $53,000, by their own estimate, to renovate part of a prison to allow a three-person firing squad to carry out executions, including adding bulletproof glass to protect witnesses." The Marshall Project (April 8, 2022)

abortion arrests begin

A Texas woman was arrested and held over the weekend for murder after a ‘self-induced abortion’ worked. Texas law prevents most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The district attorney dismissed the indictment. NBC (April 10, 2022)




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"Hochul’s budget proposals would also allocate $527,000 to NYSIC to hire a new social media analysis team. That team would 'perform daily analysis of publicly available social media activity related to school violence threats, gang activity, and illegal firearms,' according to materials the governor published with her budget proposal — a prospect civil liberties advocates find especially alarming."



Biden dedicates at least $30M to new police funding; NY Gov to increase scale of police surveillance 

defunding forgotten

"Community organizers focused on eliminating police violence say they are disappointed by President Joe Biden’s proposed budget announced this week, which would allocate at least $30 billion in new police spending." NBC (April 1, 2022)

circling back around

Three years after New York bail reform changes were hailed as a national victory to address unfair detainment, the state law and its effects are now a political grenade being lobbed from both the right and left amid surging crime. The debate has become a growing symbol of rifts among progressive and moderate Democrats that is playing out in statehouses across the U.S.  POLITICO (Mar. 27, 2022)

under the influence

You’re not allowed to be under the influence of marijuana while driving in Louisiana, but there’s no law that expressly prohibits drivers or passengers from smoking weed. That could change soon. House Bill 234, which would outlaw marijuana smoking in a moving car, advanced from a legislative committee in an 11-3 vote Tuesday morning. The Louisiana Illuminator (Mar. 29, 2022)

prison mail for profit

A massive increase in censorship and monitoring of prison communication over the last 30 years has led to companies monetizing communications for incarcerated people. “For decades, prisoners and their families have been paying outrageous rates for phone calls to stay in touch with their families. It hadn’t been uncommon for prisoners and their families to be paying up to $25 for a 20 minute phone call with loved ones.” The Real News Network (Mar. 28, 2022)


"Two men have died in custody at the Fairfax County jail in the last two days, according to reports from the county sheriff and the police department, which is investigating the deaths." DCist (Mar. 31, 2022)

slow moving

DC jail finally had to answer some questions, but the DOC’s director said he implemented specific plans to address concerns but refused to give details. Washington Post (Mar. 3, 2022)

Denver Liable in 2020 protester injuries

"After three weeks of trial, all eight jurors who awarded $14 million to protesters injured during the 2020 George Floyd protests in Denver agreed without debate that the city was at fault for its police officers’ actions, according to one of the jurors in the room." The Denver Post (Mar. 29, 2022)

must read: mass surveillance of a new kind

The New York Gov. silently slipped bills proposing tens of millions of dollars and several new initiatives to expand state policing and investigative power, including agencies’ ability to surveil New Yorkers and gather intelligence on people not yet suspected of breaking the law, into this years budget plan. The Intercept (Mar. 29, 2022)




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"At least two of the teens in the facility harmed themselves so badly that they required medical attention. Some destroyed beds and shattered light fixtures, using the metal shards to hack holes in the cinder block walls large enough for them to escape."



kids held in secret prison in Louisiana, hacked holes in concrete walls to escape; 16-y-o drill rapper will be tried as juvenile after shooting police officer

about damn time

The senate quietly passed an antilynching bill, The Emmett Till Antilynching Act. It makes lynching a federal hate crime and comes after more than a century of similar legislation failing to pass. The Washington Post (Mar. 7, 2022)

killings continue

Three men were killed in Alabama’s Donaldson prison in ten days, causes of death included asphyxiation and blunt force trauma to the head. One was killed in a segregation unit which is supposedly the most secure unit in a prison. EJI (Mar. 3, 2022)

united front

The supreme court actually joined hands across the political aisle to deliver a bipartisan ruling it unconstitutional that a man was charged for multiple burglaries since he broke into multiple storage units at one time. He was charged as a career criminal and sentenced to about 14 years longer than the recommended sentence. The New York Times (Mar. 7, 2022)

denied release, left to die

As previously reported by Kaiser Health News, thousands of federal inmates have appealed for release and been denied effectively turning hundreds of prisoners sentences into death sentences as the pandemic raged behind bars. NPR (Mar. 7, 2022)


"A Bronx judge ruled drill rapper C Blu should be tried as a juvenile Tuesday on charges of shooting a police officer — after slamming his arresting officer for 'incredible and unreliable' testimony that 'had no value.' " NY Daily News (Mar. 8, 2022)

slow moving

DC jail finally had to answer some questions, but the DOC’s director said he implemented specific plans to address concerns but refused to give details. Washington Post (Mar. 3, 2022)


"State lawmakers on a special committee investigating allegations of a coverup in the 2019 death of a Black motorist in State Police custody want to know more about trooper cellphones that were 'sanitized' or wiped clean of data and more recent text messages sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards." Louisiana Illuminator (Mar. 9, 2022)

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profit from prison

The pandemic brought tablets to roughly 50,000 incarcerated people in New York. But the price tag meant JPay projected a net profit of about $8.8 million by August 2022. The Appeal (Mar. 9, 2022)

the consequences of distrust

A new study from New York State’s Correctional Association reveals the lack of success in getting incarcerated people to take the vaccine has a lot to do with general distrust of the prison system.  Prison Policy Initiative (Mar. 9, 2022)

must read: the kids are not alright

"Scrambling to respond to a wave of violence and escapes from other juvenile facilities, state officials quietly opened the high-security lockup last summer to regain control of the most troubled teens in their care. Instead, they created a powder keg, according to dozens of interviews, photos, video footage, hundreds of pages of incident reports, emergency response logs, emails and education records." The Marshall Project (Mar. 10, 2022)


DC homicides on track with last years record high and robberies have almost doubled



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Top Stories


Abuse in prisons; Chicago mayor wants to expand civil asset seizure to accused gang members; Black women pick up guns; abused by her husband, a judge took away her kids.


Lawsuit filed in police dog mauling case in California after an officer sent his dog after a woman accused of shoplifting. The suit alleges the officer permitted the dog “to bite and gnaw on Ms. Bates’ scalp and skull for an extended period of time, despite Ms. Bates’ frantic pleas for him to call the dog off.” The Davis Vanguard (Feb. 17, 2022)


Florida prison guards kicked, punched, spat and yelled the n-word at a helpless inmate. All three guards received prison time for the beating that left the inmate with a deformed face, bleeding from the ears, and a left eye “grossly swollen shut.” Miami Herald (Mar. 4, 2022)


expanding power for law enforcement

Chicago Mayor Wants to expand Civil Asset Forfeiture to “Gang Activity” allowing police to seize assets of accused gang members. Filter (Mar. 1, 2022)

addressing bias

A judge may not call it racism, but Colorado attorneys say “implicit bias” is getting people kicked off juries, a new bill is set to address this issue in Colorado. Colorado Sun (Mar. 2, 2022)


“Transgender Texas kids are terrified after governor orders that parents be investigated for child abuse: Some experts doubt that classifying gender-affirming care as child abuse would hold up in court, but families still feel targeted by Gov. Greg Abbott’s new order.” Texas Tribune (Feb. 28, 2022)

a new defense

Black women are arming themselves for self defense — and pushing against stereotypes of who owns firearms. The Trace (Feb. 28, 2022)

shock waves

‘So Much Hatred’: Jury Foreman Shaken by Evidence in Arbery Trial: with so much evidence of racism, said Marcus Ransom, the only Black man on the jury, it was not difficult to find Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers guilty of hate crimes. The New York Times (Mar. 1, 2022)


Man who killed his three children and the person watching them was under a restraining order from his girlfriend who said he was ‘dangerous.’ Los Angeles Times (Mar. 1, 2022)

no word

‘After a bold campaign promise, the president has remained almost silent as thousands languish in solitary in federal prisons. Advocates say they remain hopeful that he will find his voice on the issue. The Appeal (Feb. 28, 2022)

Pretrial detention led to a 42% increase in sentence length

Our nation incarcerates almost half a million Americans not yet convicted of a crime but incarcerated because of their inability to pay bail, a new report from Thurgood Marshall Institute reports on money bail and algorithmic risk assessments.  

Summary By: Natalie Mattson
Summary By: Natalie Mattson

The Study's Critical Points

“Money bail is one of the many well-established practices in our criminal justice system that unjustly punishes people based on low-wealth and race.”

Highlights in numbers:

  • 90% of arrests are for misdemeanor charges
  • 80% of people released prior to trial were not arrested prior to trial and arrived at their court date
  • 98% of those released do not endanger public safety awaiting trial
  • 91% of people labeled high-risk for “new violent criminal activity” were not arrested for a violent crime awaiting trial
  • 66% of mothers cannot afford bail
  • $10,000 is the median money bail amount a felony
    • $16,000 is the average yearly income for a man who cannot afford bail
    • $11,000 is the average yearly income for a woman who cannot afford bail
  • 43% of people experiencing pretrial incarceration are Black
    • 13% of the U.S. population is
  • 20% of people experiencing pretrial incarceration are Latinx
    • about 13% of the U.S. population is
  • 48% of white people charged with felony crimes were incarcerated pretrial
  • 59% of Black people charged with the same crimes were incarcerated pretrial
  • A study conducted in 2014 found that Black people were 10% more likely to be incarcerated pretrial than white people who were accused of the same crime. Black people were 20% more likely to be incarcerated pretrial for misdemeanor property offenses than white people accused of the same crime.
 “Algorithmic risk assessments uncritically incorporate biased data infused with structural racism into what becomes biased decisions about pretrial incarceration.”

State stats:

  • In Broward County, Florida, the risk assessment algorithm was twice as likely to label Black people as high-risk for future criminal activity than white people.
  • A pretrial justice system study in Philadelphia reported that pretrial detention led to a 42% increase in the length of the sentence.
  • After Maryland introduced a statewide risk assessment tool, there was a 15.9% increase in the percentage of people held without bail in Montgomery County.
  • In Washington D.C., where there is no money bail, 94% of people awaiting trial are released, and 90% of them arrive at their court dates.
  • A pilot program started in Multnomah County, Oregon in 2007, made automatic reminder calls to people about their upcoming court dates. Court appearances increased by 31% and over a million dollars were saved by the county.

Read the whole study here.

VISUAL Breakdown

Above: A graphic depicting a quote of the issue of determining people’s risk through automated systems.


Black girls arrested at 14 times the rate of white girls in school-related matters

The ACLU reported in a recent study that Allegheny County public school-related arrest rates matched national trends, but Black students and students with disabilities had disproportionally higher arrests.

Summary By: Natalie Mattson
Summary By: Natalie Mattson

The Study's Critical Points

  • 1 out of every 51 Black boys enrolled in schools was arrested, compared with 1 out of every 316 white boys.
  • 1 out of every 69 Black girls enrolled in schools was arrested, compared with 1 out of every 894 white girls.
  • Black girls were arrested 14 times more than the rate of white girls in school-related matters.
  • Students with disabilities were arrested almost three times as much as students without.

Black boys with a disability were arrested at 5.7 times the rate of white boys with a disability, while Black girls with a disability were arrested at 8.2 times the rate of white girls

VISUAL Breakdown

Above: A graphic depicting the disparity in arrests between Black and white students.



Top news stories from last week in the justice world. Hit the ground running and well informed every Monday. 

"A court denied Eberbaugh’s motion, in part citing the lack of covid cases in the prison. A few days later, she responded in a handwritten letter, appealing for legal counsel from the public defender’s office. “Your honor, it is only a matter of time before it reaches here and I am in fear of my life,” she wrote. The court denied that appeal in April 2021. Within nine months, she had died of covid."


Federal female inmates asked for release and were denied before dying of covid; Senate launches investigation into BOP; nearly half of unemployed U.S. men have a criminal conviction by age 35

on the move

After the uncovering of widespread corruption and abuse in prisons, the U.S. Senate is launching a bipartisan working group of lawmakers to address the issue. The group will be developing policies to better oversee the federal prison system, improve transparency, and protect human rights inside federal prisons. PBS (Feb. 17, 2022)

no compassion for the convicted

In the midst of numerous COVID outbreaks, BOP is accused of manipulating related statistics to cover poor healthcare and inadequate response to the pandemic behind bars. Yet the ones who asked for compassionate release before dying of COVID were still denied. KHN (Feb. 18, 2022)

constitutional right goes criminal

When a Tennessee woman 'requested a jury trial’ for her case, she was sentenced to six years in prison. After illegally registering to vote on her probation, Pamela Moses refused the plea deal and requested a jury trial. She exercised her constitutional right, yet the DA claimed this was the reason for the sentencing. Reason (Feb. 17, 2022)


A Los Angeles based CA senator is introducing legislation to increase the funds that people released from state prisons are given from $200 to nearly $2,600. This would be the first attempt to increase the funds in nearly 50 years. “This is really about making sure that when people get out, we are not perpetuating a cycle of economic violence.” The Guardian (Feb. 18, 2022)

deadly consequences

A young pregnant woman ended up in jail after her family called 911 for mental health help. Her condition deteriorated and her newborn died a week after she gave birth alone in her cell months into her being held without trial. Prism (Feb. 16, 2022)

exposing re-entry barriers

A new study reveals that nearly half of unemployed U.S. men have a criminal conviction by age 35, which creates further restriction in finding a job. This shows that unemployment is in fact an issue of mass criminalization, when one in three adults in the US has been arrested at least once.

mercy only for some

Advocacy groups accused the Department of Justice of unjustly barring or limiting people from filing compassionate release pleas. Many say that's cruel. NPR (Feb. 16, 2022)


A new Oklahoma law allows state employees, including police, to run public school classrooms with no experience or higher education requirements. Scalawag (Feb. 9, 2022)


The Controversy of Nurseries in Jails and Prisons

The Controversy of Nurseries in Jails and Prisons

 Advocates seem to agree that nurseries in jails and prisons are necessary, but far from ideal.

By Abby Ilfeld
By Abby Ilfeld

Abby Ilfeld attends Columbia University and Trinity College Dublin, where she majors in Political Science and European Studies.

While nurseries in prisons are a justifiably contentious topic, the one inside Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison for women in Bedford Hills, New York, is respected by its community and advocates.


“[Prisons are] not places built for anyone, but especially not for children,” said Dr. Lorie Goshin, an expert in nursing and associate professor at Hunter College.


“But local advocates want it to stay open. There are no other structures to keep women and children together in the context of mass incarceration,” Goshin continued, highlighting the fundamental controversy at the center of the discussion surrounding prison nurseries.


The criminal justice system is not kind to many, much less pregnant women, as the News Station reported in September. Most who give birth while incarcerated are separated immediately from their newborns. But in select prisons across the United States, women can participate in a program in which their newborn lives with them for the first few months of his or her life.

These nurseries are part of a larger discussion about incarcerated women and, more specifically, incarcerated mothers. As of 2019, there were 231,000 women and girls in prisons, jails and other detention centers–a number seven times higher than in 1980, and the number of women in jails rose during the past few years. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, more than 60% of women in state prisons and 80% in jails have children under 18. Most of these incarcerated women are single mothers.


Since many of these women are tackling motherhood alone, that leaves the question of what happens to their children when they are incarcerated. With no end in sight for mass incarceration and its pervasive effects, many advocates are just trying to do damage control for women and children affected by the criminal justice system, which leads advocates to look at these nurseries as a necessary Band-Aid.


For most incarcerated pregnant women, carceral nurseries are not even an option. Though many countries utilize nurseries in their prisons, they are fairly rare in the United States. Currently, the only states with prison nurseries are New York, Delaware, West Virginia, Indiana, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and California.


Because they are so uncommon, many people are unaware of these nurseries’ existence and there is currently no widespread movement in favor or against them. But in New York, those fighting for women in criminal justice are acutely aware of the one at Bedford Hills, which is the oldest and most established prison nursery in the country. It is enshrined in state law in section 611, the same law that prohibits the use of shackles on incarcerated women giving birth.


According to the New York Department of Corrections, there were four mothers at the facility in August, and it can house up to 27 women and their babies at a time. It is run by an outside organization called Hour Children; the maximum-security prison has a $510,000 annual contract with the organization. A correction officer is on site 24 hours, seven days a week and Hour Children has volunteers who work at the prison during the week. Medical personnel and other officers check in on the mothers and babies regularly.

“The benefit of the nursery,” wrote Thomas Mailey, the public information officer for the New York DOC, in an email, “is to provide the nursery mother the opportunity to learn the skill[s] necessary to become a good parent in an environment that frees them from the daily struggles that they face in the community.”


“[It] allows mothers to bond and care for their children while still serving their state prison sentence and participating in their regular mandatory correctional programming.”


These benefits are supported by evidence. Dr. Goshin has worked on multiple studies concerning the effects of prison nurseries, including one that tracked children born in Bedford Hills until five years old. The data was clear. 


“Children are able to develop strong attachment styles in prison nurseries, which is usually not the case in mothers who have a history of insecure attachments [like many of the women in the nursery],” Goshin said. 


“Insecure attachment” classifies all non-secure attachment styles and is typically categorized by feelings of anxiety or fear in relationships; this is usually influenced by parent-child relationships during youth. Goshin and fellow researchers found that kids in prison nurseries had stronger attachments than ones separated from their mother in prison.


Goshin believes the Bedford Hills nursery is a place with the best interests of the women and their children in mind, especially with the guidance and oversight from Hour Children. But that still doesn’t make it an ideal place for babies.


“These women and children are kept under constant supervision. But toddlers want to roam around, be curious and explore. Prison is just not a place for that at all,” Goshin said.


Another issue for Goshin is the restrictions for women to be eligible for the prison nursery program. Participants must have a “nonviolent conviction, no history of child welfare and must be on track to give birth in prison,” she said. This set of guidelines is standard for prisons across the country, and when examining the women who are in these programs, Goshin asks, “Why are these women even in prison?”

Potentially even more concerning is the idea of women in jail nurseries with their newborns. “They’re designed to be temporary,” Dr. Goshin said, emphasizing why jails should not house children.


Nevertheless, multiple jail nursery programs do exist in New York. Aside from one on Rikers Island, there is one in operation at Yaphank jail in Suffolk County, Long Island. Advocates for New Hour, a group on Long Island that works with Hour Children, are looking to expand New Hour’s programming to the neighboring, much larger Nassau County, which bans carceral nurseries.


The jail nursery in Suffolk County Correctional Facility is not as structured as the Bedford Hills one, and the requirements are up to the local sheriff, according to Serena Liguori, the executive director for New Hour.


“Most of the people who run the jails and oversee the courts are men, and they often don’t understand or consider what is best for the mothers and their children,” Liguori said, which makes New Hour’s work all the more important. New Hour provides programs that include services for parents, children and their wellness.


But New Hour has not been able to access in-person programming at the jail since September, when they were locked out because of COVID-19 cases among officers. “They had over 80 out sick with COVID and [the officers] refuse to wear masks most times that we have been there,” Liguori said.


Programming has continued online, Danielle Donaphin, New Hour’s director of programming, said. This includes classes focusing on health and wellness, as well as the parenting program. When asked about when the organization expects to return in person, Donaphin said, “It’s unlikely to be soon with the [COVID-19] transmission rate over 6%.” She described the current atmosphere in jail as “tense.”


“We want to continue to be a resource for these women and create support systems for them, which will help their children as well,” Liguori said.


Still, Liguori wishes these nurseries didn’t have to exist at all. Like Goshin, Liguori expressed frustration that these women are in jail. “Having mothers and their babies behind bars is really barbaric,” she said. “Ultimately we want these women to be in alternative-to-incarceration programs.”

That seems to be the goal for incarcerated women’s advocates throughout New York. Kristin Edwards, a social worker and director of the Women’s Community Justice Project (WCJP), also expressed her dislike of jail nurseries. “If we ever find out there’s a woman there who’s pregnant, we try to get them out as soon as possible,” she said. However, most of her work focuses on serving women, often mothers, under threat of incarceration at Rikers.


WCJP is a consortium of organizations that includes Housing Plus, Providence House, Greenhope and Hour Children. Across these groups they provide 59 total units of supportive housing for women impacted by incarceration. Ten of them are specifically for women and their families.


WCJP is only four years old and relies on funding from the New York City mayor’s office of criminal justice. “It was very clear that most of the women we were serving at WCJP were mothers, and one of the main areas that they wanted to focus on was reunifying with their families and children,” Edwards said.


Edwards and her consortium are connected to the effort to close Rikers. “Our hope is that we can continue to build out this program and successfully house and assist as many women as possible so that they can close [the Rosie M. Singer Women’s Center at Rikers Island] way sooner than they plan on closing the other facilities,” she said.


In the meantime, WCJP offers diverse resources to support these women. “Hopefully we can lessen the chance that they would end up back in the system again,” Edwards said. 


As of October, women in the Rosie M. Singer center have been moved upstate to facilities like Bedford Hills and Taconic Correctional Facility due to dangerous conditions at the Rikers facility. “It is unclear to me how they will handle pregnant women currently detained at Rikers,” said Edwards.


The efforts to close Rosie’s and ultimately Rikers itself offer hope that alternatives to incarceration will be relied on more, especially for pregnant women and new mothers entering prison or jail. Goshin also believes there is hope for a larger shift toward incarceration alternatives. 

“Even in conservative states, there has been a focus on incarceration reduction, for financial reasons, at least,” she said, echoing a hope that one day there will not even be the issue of newborn mothers being incarcerated.