As we come to the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the Justice Department’s inaugural National Reentry Week, I am humbled and inspired by the department’s – and the entire Obama Administration’s – commitment to inclusive criminal justice reform efforts. For example, last month the White House convened a group of justice-involved women and girls, family members of incarcerated individuals, women serving in law enforcement and other advocates to talk about women’s access to justice.
Today, I had the great fortune to travel to Federal Prison Camp Alderson in West Virginia with colleagues from the Office on Violence Against Women and the Bureau of Prisons as well as the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. During this visit we saw a number of vocational training programs that provide women with skills for employment post-release, and about their trauma and drug treatment programs. We also met with a group of survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child sexual abuse and heard about their experiences of victimization prior to incarceration, as well as their need for support and programming while incarcerated and for reentry.
As we heard from survivor after survivor, I was reminded of the critical role direct services – legal assistance, advocacy, counseling and housing – have in the lives of victims and survivors. And we must continue to develop and strengthen partnerships between state, local and tribal governments and community-based organizations to fully meet the reentry needs of survivors. In the words of Attorney General Lynch:
“As long as we continue to make it difficult for those who have served time in prison to find their footing, we diminish our safety; hamper our prosperity; and, above all, compromise the ideals and principles that define our country. That’s why all of us, at every level, must work together to give returning individuals the resources and support they need to make a successful transition: not just because it’s sound policy, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
The Office on Violence Against Women stands with the Department of Justice’s commitment to standing with justice-involved survivors.