PLBC hosts policy hearing, tour at SCI Muncy

HARRISBURG, Nov. 17 – State Reps. Jordan Harris and Morgan Cephas, both D-Phila., on behalf of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, today hosted a joint policy committee hearing and tour with the House Democratic Policy Committee, various stakeholders, and incarcerated women. The tour and policy hearing was held at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy. This is the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus’ and House Democratic Policy Committee’s first tour and policy hearing at a state prison facility.

Advocacy and community-based organizations joined state legislators to discuss policy initiatives aimed at reducing incarceration rates, ending the school-to-prison pipeline for young girls, and improving conditions for incarcerated women.

Panelists for the policy hearing included:

  • Chloe Bohm, House Democratic Appropriations Committee, budget analyst;
  • Joanna Visser Adjoian, Esq., Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project, co-founder and co-director;
  • John Hargreaves, Pennsylvania Prison Society, director of volunteers;
  • Melissa Robbins, Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization of Women, delegate;
  • Sameerah Shabazz, Ardella’s House, director of policy and advocacy;
  • Farida E. Boyer, MS, Family Centered Outpatient Therapeutic Services, CEO;
  • Peggy Sims, Sisters Returning Home, founder and executive director; and
  • Rev. Michelle Anne Simmons, Why Not Prosper, founder and CEO.

Cephas, chairwoman of the PLBC Subcommittee on Women and Girls of Color, said, “I was excited to host the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus’ visit to SCI Muncy so we can finally expand the discussion of criminal justice reform to include women and girls of color. The female prison population is on the rise and there must be immediate conversations on how to reserve this. In the meantime, we must also ensure that incarcerated women are receiving the services they need. It’s beyond time we make sure our state budget, legislative proposals, and policy agendas are conducive to the needs of women and girls of color.”

Women have been identified as the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population. Since 1985, the rate of incarcerated women has increased at nearly double the male rate. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that African American women and women of color are significantly overrepresented in the prison population. African American women represent 30 percent of incarcerated women in the United States, while they only represent 13 percent of the female population. In addition, Hispanic women represent 16 percent of incarcerated women and only 11 percent of all women in the U.S.                                                            

State Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., chairman of the PLBC, said, “Now more than ever women – in particular women of color – are filling many of our jail cells. The conversation around the incarceration of women, as well as its effect on them, their families, and the community is finally happening as widely as it should be. Today's tour sought to elevate the conversation around incarcerated women and the unique issues they face.”

The SCI Muncy visit marks the first installment of a five-part listening tour hosted by the PLBC.