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Panel on Women in Prison Moves Audience to Action
1 August 2016
Many members at the Biennial expressed appreciation for the panel on women and girls in detention, and many came forward with their own heartwarming stories of what women judges have done, are doing and can do (for an example, see the excerpt below from one of the panelist's proposals). The plenary panel, moderated by Judge Denise Johnson, featured a number of notable speakers, including Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black. Ms. Kerman delivered an inspiring speech about her time in detention and the unique problems that women and girls face when they are incarcerated. The panel also included discussion from a number of judges from around the world, including
Senior Resident Magistrate Irene Kahuya (Machakos Law Courts, Kenya), Judge Carla Maria Lendaro (Civil Court of Appeal of Brescia, Italy), Justice Vera N. Nkwate Ngassa (Court of Appeal, South West Region, Cameroon), and Magistrate Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds (San Fernando Drug Treatment Court, Trinidad and Tobago). During this session, over 900 IAWJ members heard about the different experiences of judges in addressing the issues that women and girls in detention face within their own countries. The panel discussed the challenges they found to be most pressing, successful models, and ideas for improving the condition of women and girls in detention centers. Major concerns surrounding women in prisons include mistreatment, sexual abuse, lack of rehabilitation, separation of families, and the high rate of increase in the populations of incarcerated women.
After this plenary panel, a number of IAWJ members were able to pose questions, share their own experiences, and begin to form ideas for improvement of the status of women and girls in detention. From making it easier for women to keep lifelines to their children, to skills development, to simply ensuring that women and girls in detention have enough food and sanitary supplies, our members demonstrate a commitment to the humanity of those who come before them. The panel inspired our members to go forward with this pressing issue and continue moving towards improving the status of women and girls in detention through IAWJ. We resolved at the Biennial to create an Interest Community on Women and Girls in Detention. As a first step, IAWJ is developing a questionnaire on what our members have already accomplished - either alone, or as part of national chapters - on this important issue. We will highlight stories on our website, share ideas, and brainstorm new programs. Please watch for the email blast and fill out the survey.