Senator Weinberg teams up with “Crime After Crime” crew for prison visit and new legislation
CLINTON, NJ – On July 29, 2013, as part of an effort to call attention to the plight of abused women imprisoned for crimes against their batterers, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg visited the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, New Jersey’s only maximum-security prison for women. She spoke directly with inmates who have been victims of physical and sexual abuse, many of whom are now incarcerated for fighting back against their abusers.
“The criminal justice system has often failed to account for the violence and abuse they suffered before they acted in defense or retaliation,” Senator Weinberg said. “In many cases they have paid the price with long jail terms that took them away from their families and communities.”
Senator Weinberg has introduced the New Jersey Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (S-2690) which would pave the way for incarcerated victims of abuse to be transferred out of prison to a supervised community reentry program.
“Most female inmates have been the victims of physical or sexual abuse and for many of them their only crimes have been against those who harmed them,” said Senator Weinberg. “After years of incarceration, they need the reentry help. As victims themselves, they deserve it.”
To be eligible for the program before serving her full sentence, an inmate would have to clear a number of hurdles, including a risk assessment, psychological evaluation, and a report showing that her crime was committed against her abuser and no one else.
Senator Weinberg took up the cause after seeing the documentary film “Crime After Crime,” which follows the case of Deborah Peagler, a California woman fighting for her release from prison under a similar state law. Peagler’s daughter Natasha Wilson and Yoav Potash, the producer and director of “Crime After Crime,” joined Senator Weinberg for the New Jersey prison visit. The filmmaker plans to create a short documentary video about it, to be released later this year.
Wilson, Potash and Weinberg share a hope that this video and the broader effort on behalf of incarcerated survivors of abuse will spread to other states. On the eve following their prison visit, they showed “Crime After Crime” at a law firm in New York CIty and participated in a panel discussion with New York State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson and other proponents of New York’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act. The filmmaker and the legislators urged the lawyers in attendance to volunteer to represent incarcerated survivors of domestic violence in seeking their freedom.