In 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, urging him not to forget the status of women as he and his colleagues forged the laws of the new country emerging from British rule. Her injunction to “remember the ladies” — repeated countless times when the rights and interests of women appear to be in jeopardy — appears not to be given its fair due. It’s certainly applicable now as the General Assembly convenes this week to consider overrides of several of Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes including that of SB 684/HB 801 to establish a pre-release center for women who are returning to the community from incarceration.
Over 10 years ago, the only women’s community pre-release center in Maryland was closed citing budgetary considerations. With the leadership of Sen. Mary L. Washington and Del. Charlotte Crutchfield and the advocacy of Out for Justice and the Maryland Justice Project, this important legislation was passed overwhelmingly. While there will be many competing demands on the state treasury given COVID-19, budgetary considerations should not again be the basis for denying women essential pre-release services. The needs of women should not be left at the bottom of the list. Women again should not be asked to move to the back of the line and wait longer for essential, effective community services (”Incarcerated women need mores services to transition back into Maryland society,” Feb. 11, 2020).
I served for many years on the boards of the Marian House, the Tuerk House and the Job Opportunities Task Force. They are all organizations that work with returning citizens. Marian House, in particular, takes many women leaving the women’s prison at Jessup. The reason that Marian House is effective in helping women turn around their lives is their wraparound services including housing, family reunification, therapy, education in job placement. The legislation mandates the new pre-release center would take the same approach in the community with established community partners.
I am a strong supporter of pre-release services for returning citizens, men and women, but we know the crucial role that women play in the lives of their children, their families and their communities. If women can return to their communities with supportive services and reunite with their children, many who are now in foster care or residing with other relatives will benefit — as will the community.
I ask the General Assembly to “remember the ladies” and override the veto.
Susan K. Gauvey, Baltimore
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