The New Jersey legislature attempted to stand up for the rights of incarcerated pregnant women, children and others by passing S51, which would have restricted the use of solitary confinement in state prisons. By vetoing this important legislation, Governor Christie has shown that he has no concern for the well-being of the most vulnerable among us. Instead of listening to the overwhelming evidence and the members of the legislature, the Governor has chosen to stick his head in the sand and pretend that the problem is nonexistent.
This bill was written after legislators consulted with county jail wardens, corrections officers’ unions and mental health experts. It was based on real information and real data and addressed a serious problem.
This feigned ignorance of how the Department of Corrections uses solitary confinement and the dangerous psychological impact on inmates of being in a small cell for 22 to 23 hours a day is appalling. That the Governor would allow such torture to continue and to be used on pregnant women, children, seniors, people suffering from mental illness and others is an indication of his callousness.
Our criminal justice system needs reforming. Currently, it is failing families and hurting our economy. Policies that allow for solitary confinement of pregnant women and other vulnerable communities exacerbate the harm already caused by the criminal justice system. When formerly incarcerated people return to society, their efforts to integrate back into society and their families are hindered by the detrimental effects of solitary confinement. This can hurt their ability to get a job and earn an income that allows them to provide and care for their families.
At MomsRising we value uplifting mothers and supporting the economic security of their families. This veto is not only an affront to sensible criminal justice reform but is also an issue of maternal justice. We oppose efforts that damage the maternal health and wellbeing of mothers, and this veto does precisely that.