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Lopez, Advocacy Group & Former Inmates Discuss the Dignity for Incarcerated Primary Caretaker Parents Act

Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez held a roundtable discussion Saturday with formerly incarcerated men and women to discuss proposed legislation, the Dignity for Incarcerated Primary Caretaker Parents Act (A-3979). Partnering with Women Who Never Give Up, a state-based criminal justice reform advocacy organization, Assemblywoman Lopez received feedback on the bill directly from the individuals it would impact most.

“I am grateful that I had the opportunity to speak with these former inmates,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “Hearing directly from them about their struggles while incarcerated will help me present a more comprehensive piece of legislation during the upcoming fall session.”

The roundtable discussion was held at the Rutgers University School of Social Work.

Assemblywoman Lopez said the conversation uncovered valuable points to consider that would offer additional protections and will likely be added to the bill.

“The stories I heard on Saturday and continue to hear are heartbreaking,” said Lopez. “As a mother, I am horrified by the treatment that primary caretaker parents receive in prison. Those who have shared their experiences with me are calling for substantial changes in the prison system. This bill aims to bring about the changes they are seeking and will serve to protect the dignity of men and women who are incarcerated.”

“The conditions that our primary caretaker parents face in prison have gone unaddressed for far too long”, said Cuqui Rivera, Criminal Justice Reform Chair of the Latino Action Network. “This bill has a number of measures that will improve the conditions that inmates face. Moreover, this bill contains language that ensures the policy changes are enforced and bring about meaningful change.”

“We are honored to be working along-side Assemblywoman Lopez on this important piece of legislation,” said Gale Muhammad, CEO and Founder of Women Who Never Give Up. “At the heart of this bill is dignity and the family unit. This bill will ensure that the family unit is not dramatically disrupted while primary caretakers are incarcerated. Current policies needlessly victimize children and make it difficult for parents to maintain family bonds. In order for individuals to fully reintegrate into society, it is important that their family relationships remain intact.”