As part of its “She, The People” series, Essence magazine spoke to Jessica Jackson, national director and co-founder of #cut50, and Topeka Sam, founder and executive director of The Ladies of Hope Ministries, about #cut50’s Dignity for Incarcerated Women Campaign, of which Sam is the director.
The campaign takes its name from a bill introduced in the United States Senate in 2017 and is currently focused on introducing reforms in 20 states by 2020. These reforms include ending the practice of shackling women during childbirth, ensuring that the 80% of women who are both incarcerated and mothers have access to their children through increased visitation or phone time, providing access to all necessary hygiene products and making sure male guards are not stationed in areas of the prison where they can watch women in states of undress.
The Dignity for Incarcerated Women Campaign plans to work with women affected by the criminal justice system in each state as “Dignity Ambassadors” who will help in identifying what changes need to be made.
“People with lived experience are experts. When we think about prison, we don’t look at the people who actually live in the prison unfortunately as the experts. But what has been effective is making sure that when people who have been incarcerated are the ones leading the conversations, that are actually at the table that are drafting legislation,” Sam said.
Starting in July, Essence will use its “She, The People” series to profile the women involved with the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Campaign, including the Dignity Ambassadors and their stories.