D.C.’s Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has undertaken a noble cause on behalf of thousands of incarcerated men and women and their families. And we support her efforts 100 percent.

We assert, as does Norton, that local felons housed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) should be treated more like human beings with rules and procedures that facilitate a smoother transition back into society as returning citizens. In addition, during their incarceration, contact with their loved ones should be a positive encounter — something that many say is not the current situation.

For example, a parent and child cannot engage in physical contact during visits — no hugs, no kisses, no meaningful embraces are allowed. Visitors must also adhere to a dress code which often forces them to purchase additional items of clothing — even after traveling hundreds of miles for their visit.

And despite the overwhelming challenges facing returning citizens, they must also pay an inordinately high fee during their placement at Residential Reentry Centers, or halfway houses.

Norton recently sent correspondence to Thomas R. Kane, the acting director of the BOP, citing her concerns and has also introduced a bill, H.R. 2988, that would eliminate the requirement that residents of BOP halfway houses pay a subsistence fee of 25 percent of their gross income to offset the cost of being housed.

The collective policies thrust upon those housed by BOP, we believe, lack any semblance of compassion and do nothing more than add even more hurdles for men and women who have served their time and deserve the opportunity to get on with their lives.

Let’s use common sense and treat everyone with dignity — even, and perhaps particularly, those who have erred in their past and are now attempting to reconnect with their families and embark on a better and more positive path.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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