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Women's Justice Initiative (WJI) 


Building Gender Responsive Justice Systems for Women & Girls

Women's Justice in the Spotlight

NEWS RELEASE:  SEPTEMBER 23, 2017

"It's About Time."
WJI'S Landmark Women's Correctional Services Act (WCA)
Is Signed into Law by IL Governor Bruce Rauner
​​

PA 100-0527 Establishes One of the Most Comprehensive Standards for a Women's Prison & Parole System in the Nation


On September 22, 2017, the WCA (HB3904) became law in Illinois with an inpsiring demonstration of broad bi-partisan support. WJI commended Governor Rauner and bill sponsors State Rep. Juliana Stratton and State Senator Toi Hutchison, as well as a substantial coalition of partners in a NEWS RELEASE issued on September 23rd.

More Good News:
The legislature is already working to further strengthen the law by passing a "trailer bill" (HB1479) by November that will remove one of two amendments that had been added to the bill that have been of concern to WJI and our partners!
 
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LEGISLATIVE ALERT!!!
JUNE 28, 2017
STAY POSTED HERE:
The Women's Correctional Services Act (HB 3904) 
​Trailer Bill FILED as  HB1479 AMD001

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The WJI's landmark Women's Correctional Services Act (HB3904) continues to progress toward becoming law in Illinois and a model for the nation. After a concurrence motion passed yesterday, Chief Sponsor Juliana Stratton rapidly filed a Trailer Bill to address concerns from the Administration about a Senate amendment that was made to the bill late in the process and to help ensure the Governor's signature. 

As previously noted, the WJI and our stakeholders were opposed to the Senate Amendment language based on principle, and we are in full support of Rep Stratton's Trailer Bill. However, we want to make it clear that we will continue to vigorously support the bill regardless of the Trailer Bill for one simple reason: The historic reforms in this bill will far outweigh any concerns we had about the amendement.  We believe that the safety, health and outcomes of justice-involved women, corrections staff and communities should be priortized above any technical issues.

On background, the Senate Amendment included two provisions that were in question, including: 

1) The Senate Amendment added language to the bill that would require anyone appointed to lead the new Women's Correctional Services Division created by the bill (which typically would be a female leader) to be subjected to the "advice and consent of the Senate," resulting in a higher level of scrutiny than any man in an equivalent position in the entire history of the state of Illinois. In fact, there has never been a woman appointed to serve as the Chief of Operations over all prisons statewide, and the men in that position have never been subjected to this level of scrutiny -- even in times of great challenges, historic levels of violence or when the closure of Dwight Correctional Center resulted into the deeply troubled conversion of Logan prison into a female facility. On principle, the WJI questioned why would be necessary to subject women leaders to higher scrutiny than men in equivalent positions?  

How does the Trailer Bill address this issue?  
HB1479 will completely remove this requirement.   


2) The Senate Amendment removed symbolic language from the original bill that emphasized the need for "gender responsive disciplinary policies" that would have made IL the first state in the nation to pass a law with specific mention of this issue. The language would have sent a message designed to acknowledge the disturbing national trend of women prisoners, particularly African American women and the mentally ill, receiving higher average disciplinary tickets than male prisoners.  A November 2016 report released by the WJI revealed that women prisoners in IL received 3-5 times higher average numbers of disciplinary tickets than male prisoners, and have been subjected to high levels of segregation as a counterproductive means to address behaviors linked to histories of sexual assault and PTSD episodes and serious mental illness. Furthermore, national experts report that more trauma-informed, gender responsive discplinary practices create a safer prison environment for staff, women prisoners and even improve outcomes. 

How does the Trailer Bill address this issue?
HB1479 does not address this issue.  


Again, special thanks to our Chief Sponsor State Rep Juliana Stratton and Senate Sponsor Toi Hutchison for continuing to lead this fight in the legislature and move this debate forward. We look forward to working with them on ensuring passage of the trailer bill, and to stakeholders standing with the Governor, the IDOC and the extensive coaliton of bi-partisan copsonsors at a bill signing someday soon to make this a model law for the nation. 

As our leaders seek this compromise, we again urge them to remember the goals of this bill and to not allow technical differences to stand in the way of progress.  When WJI drafted this bill, our purpose was to bring focus to the all-too-often overlooked voices of justice-involved women/girls, whose pathways are disproportionately impacted by lifetimes of abuse, discrimination and trauma; and to require greater front-line staff support and training in gender responsive, trauma-informed best practices that have demonstrated improvements in staff and inmate safety, as well as more positive outcomes for all system stakeholders. 

Follow our progress here, make sure to LIKE the WJI on Facebook, and remember to support the WJI's Women's Justice Advocacy Campaign as generously as possible so that we can continue to advance this important work!  

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE LEGISLATION HERE​
FACT SHEET ON HB3904
LEGISLATIVE ALERT!!!
JUNE 27, 2017
STAY POSTED HERE:
The Women's Correctional Services Act (HB 3904) 
IL HOUSE VOTES TO MOVE BILL
ONE STEP CLOSER TO PASSAGE
​Trailer Bill Now in Progress

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The WJI's landmark Women's Correctional Services Act (HB3904) is now one step closer to becoming law in Illinois -- and a model for the nation --after a concurrence motion passed with the required three-fifths majority vote in the House of Representatives during the extended legislative session today. 

This vote was a very promising development, however, there have been some ongoing concerns raised by the IDOC, the Administration and several House members regarding two changes that were made to the original bill in the Senate. While the majority of the House members voted to concur with the Senate Amendment today, the threat of a veto by the Governor resulted in our Chief Sponsor, State Rep Juliana Stratton, agreeing to work with Senator Toi Hutchison on a "trailer bill" during the veto session in order to achieve agreement among all parties by removing the amendment.

To be very clear: The WJI and our stakehodlers were opposed to the Senate Amendment language based on principle. However, we have continued to vigorously support the bill despite it for one simple reason: The historic reforms mandated by the bill will far outweigh any concerns we had about the amendement.  We believe that the safety, health and outcomes of justice-involved women, corrections staff and communities should be priortized above any technical issues.

On background, the Senate Amendment included two provisions
that are in question and may be removed in the "trailer bill": 

1) It removed symbolic language emphasizing the need for "gender responsive disciplinary policies" that would have made IL the first state in the nation to pass a law with specific mention of this issue. The language would have sent a message designed to acknowledge the disturbing national trend of women prisoners, particularly African American women and the mentally ill, receiving higher average disciplinary tickets than male prisoners.  A November 2016 report released by the WJI revealed that women prisoners in IL received 3-5 times higher average numbers of disciplinary tickets than male prisoners, and have been subjected to high levels of segregation as a counterproductive means to address behaviors linked to histories of sexual assault and PTSD episodes and serious mental illness. Furthermore, national experts report that more trauma-informed, gender responsive discplinary practices create a safer prison environment for staff, women prisoners and even improve outcomes. 

2) It added language that would require anyone appointed to lead the new Women's Correctional Services Division created by the bill (which typically would be a female leader) to be subjected to the "advice and consent of the Senate," resulting in a higher level of scrutiny than any man in an equivalent position in the entire history of the state of Illinois. In fact, there has never been a woman appointed to serve as the Chief of Operations over all prisons statewide, and the men in that position have never been subjected to this level of scrutiny -- even in times of great challenges, historic levels of violence or when the closure of Dwight Correctional Center resulted into the deeply troubled conversion of Logan prison into a female facility. On principle, the WJI questioned why would be necessary to subject women leaders to higher scrutiny than men in equivalent positions?   

 
Special thanks to our Chief Sponsor State Rep Juliana Stratton and Senate Sponsor Toi Hutchison for continuing to lead this fight in the legislature and move this debate forward. We look forward to working with them on the trailer bill, and to standing with the Governor, the IDOC and the extensive coaliton of bi-partisan copsonsors at a bill signing someday soon to make this a model law for the nation. 

As our leaders seek this compromise, we urge them to remember the goals of this bill and to not allow technical differences to stand in the way of progress.  When WJI drafted this bill, our purpose was to bring focus to the all-too-often overlooked voices of justice-involved women/girls, whose pathways are disproportionately impacted by lifetimes of abuse, discrimination and trauma; and to require greater front-line staff support and training in gender responsive, trauma-informed best practices that have demonstrated improvements in staff and inmate safety, as well as more positive outcomes for all system stakeholders. 

Follow our progress here, make sure to LIKE the WJI on Facebook, and remember to support the WJI's Women's Justice Advocacy Campaign as generously as possible so that we can continue to advance this important work!  

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE LEGISLATION HERE
FACT SHEET ON HB3904
LEGISLATIVE ALERT!!!
JUNE 7, 2017
STAY POSTED HERE:
The Women's Correctional Services Act (HB 3904) 
IL LEGISLATIVE SESSION EXTENDED TO JUNE 30th

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In an incredible demonstration of bi-partisan support, the WJI's landmark Women's Correctional Services Act (HB3904) passed unanimously on the floor of the IL House of Representatives, and an amended version also passed unanimously in the Senate on June 2nd.  

The bill is set for a final vote in the House for concurrence on the Senate amendment by June 30th... and then it will be onto the Governor's desk!  

Special thanks to our Chief Sponsor State Rep Juliana Stratton and Senate Sponsor Toi Hutchison for their work bringing focus to the all-too-often overlooked voices of justice-involved women/girls, whose pathways are disproportionately impacted by lifetimes of abuse, discrimination and trauma. The bill will require greater front-line staff support and training in gender responsive, trauma-informed best practices that have demonstrated improvements in staff and inmate safety, as well as more positive outcomes for all system stakeholders. 

Follow our progress here, make sure to LIKE the WJI on Facebook, and remember to support the WJI's Women's Justice Advocacy Campaign as generously as possible so that we can continue to advance this important work!  

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE LEGISLATION HERE
FACT SHEET ON HB3904
LEGISLATIVE ALERT!!!
The Women's Correctional Services Act (HB 3904) 
Passed Unanimously in the Senate State Gov Committee
May 10, 2017

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​After unanimous passage on the floor of the IL House of Representatives with the leadership of Chief Sponsor, Rep Juliana Stratton, the WJI's Women's Corectional Services Act (HB3904) continues to move forward with another favorable unanimous vote in the Senate State Government Committee! Special thank you to our lead Senate sponsor, Senator Toi Hutchison. 

Follow our progress here, make sure to LIKE the WJI on Facebook, and remember to support the WJI's Women's Justice Advocacy Campaign as generously as possible so that we can continue to advance this important work!  

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE LEGISLATION HERE
FACT SHEET ON HB3904
LEGISLATIVE ALERT!!!
The Women's Correctional Services Act (HB 3904) 
Vote Scheduled for Senate State Gov Committee
THIS WEDNESDAY, May 10th 2:30PM

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​After unanimous passage on the floor of the IL House of Representatives with the leadership of Chief Sponsor, Rep Juliana Stratton, the WJI's Women's Corectional Services Act (HB3904) is now being considered by the State Senate and is in the good hands of Senator Toi Hutchison. 

Please help ensure the continued success of the bill by filing at Witness Slip in support of the bill HERE before the vote in the Senate State Gov Committee this Wednesday, May 10th at 2:30PM.  

Follow our progress here, make sure to LIKE the WJI on Facebook, and remember to support the WJI's Women's Justice Advocacy Campaign as generously as possible so that we can continue to advance this important work!  

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE LEGISLATION HERE
FACT SHEET ON HB3904
LEGISLATIVE ALERT!!!
The Women's Correctional Services Act (HB 3904) 
Passes IL House Unanimously 116-0!
April 26, 2017


​After securing nearly every woman elected to the IL State House of Representatives as a co-sponsor and building tremendous bi-partisan support, Chief Sponsor State Rep Juliana Stratton brilliantly led our team to victory with a unanimous vote in support of WJI's landmark "Women's Correctional Services Act" (HB3904) on the House Floor 116-0 today! The bill now moves onto the Senat and in the good hands of IL Senator Toi Hutchison before it lands on Governor Rauner's desk! 

Follow our progress here, make sure to LIKE the WJI on Facebook , and remember to support the WJI's Women's Justice Advocacy Campaign as generously as possible so that we can continue to advance this important work!  

BE ALERT!  HB 3904 is immediately moving onto the IL SENATE and into the good hands of another one of our she-roes, ​​​​ Senator Toi Hutchinson!  Follow the bill's progress HERE!
The Women's Correctional Services Act (HB 3904) 
Passes House Judiciary Committee Unanimously!
March 21, 2017

IL HOUSE FLOOR VOTE NEXT WEEK -- March 27-30
Thank you to the WJI Network, our friends and supporters!  Last week, our amazing chief bill sponsor, Rep Juliana Stratton, brought WJI Founder Deanne Benos and CGLA organizer, Maria "Moon Pie", to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.  Maria's testimony was so powerful that, before we left the room, we had not only added another sponsor, but a unanimous vote!

A special thank you to Maria and Beth Johnson from CGLA for their advocacy suport and leadership!  
BE ALERT!  HOUSE FLOOR VOTE will be as soon as next week (March 27-30), and then onto the IL SENATE into the good hands of another one of our she-roes, Senator Toi Hutchinson!  

​WJI-IL LEGISLATIVE ALERT

SUPPORT HB 3904
The Women's Correctional Services Act (WCA)

Sponsor: State Rep Juliana Stratton

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The WJI is proud to announce that The Women’s Correctional Services Act (WCA) has been sponsored by one of our champions,  IL State Representative Juliana Stratton . The legislation was developed as a direct result of the findings and recommendations revealed in our  Gender Informed Practices Assessment (GIPA) report  that was released on November 18, 2016. 

This historic legislation would represent the first time in IL state history that the unique risks, needs and pathways of justice-involved women in our correctional system have been recognized so comprehensively, and that gender responsive and trauma-informed policies, practices and procedures have been defined by law.  

We commend the IDOC and WJI partners Alyssa Benedict from CORE Associates, the National Resource Center for Justice Involved Women (NRCJIW) and Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA) for their work suporting development of the legislation.  

                                 FOR MORE INFORMATION: 









    
Press Here for Link to File Online Witness Slip in Support of HB 3904

House Judiciary-Crime Committee Hearing​
​Tuesday, March 21st 4PM

WJI FACT SHEET
​The Women's Correctional Services Act (WCA)
WJI LEGISLATIVE BRIEF
The Women's Correctional Services Act (WCA)

IL GIPA FEATURED IN THE NEWS