Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Congressman Cohen Questions Witnesses About Impact of Imprisoning Women

July 16, 2019
Press Release
Witness agrees having criminal records expunged is smart policy

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, today questioned witnesses at a hearing on “Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System.” 

During the question-and-answer session, Congressman Cohen asked Jesselyn McCurdy, Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, about private prisons and their impact.  

Congressman Cohen: “Has anybody done any study on the cost to society of having a mother…, as distinguished from a father, who is removed from a family and what costs that has to society at large?” 

McCurdy: “I don’t know about any studies on the financial costs, but I know the cost to children is that they often develop depression, anxiety and in the end they end up in the criminal justice system. So that’s the human cost of being separated from their mothers because they don’t have the guidance that they need in the early stages and are just, again, traumatized by their separation from their mothers.” 

In an exchange with witness Piper Kerman, a convicted felon and author of “Orange is the New Black,” Congressman Cohen asked about his bill, the Fresh Start Act, which would permit the expungement of federal criminal records after seven years without an offense. Kerman said it would be “a smart policy change.”  

Other witnesses at today’s hearing were: 

  • Aleks Kajstura, legal director, Prison Policy Initiative; 
  • Patrice Lee Onwuka, senior policy analyst, Independent Women’s Forum; and 
  • Cindy Shank, featured on the HBO documentary, “The Sentence.” 

See the Congressman’s exchange with all the witnesses here