(L-R) Susan Burton, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Rep. Karen Bass, Rep. Robin Kelly (Courtesy Photo)

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) recently hosted Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) in Los Angeles for a roundtable discussion on Empowering Women and Breaking Down Barriers for Re-Entry. Also joining the two members on the panel was Susan Burton, who serves as a Los Angeles County Commissioner on the Sybil Brand Commission. Burton is a formerly incarcerated activist, author, CNN Hero and founder of A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project, which has been dedicated to fighting against the cycle of incarceration for nearly 20 years. The panel was moderated by Dr. Cheryl Grills, who also serves as a Los Angeles County Commissioner on the Sybil Brand Commission for Institutional Inspections, which focuses on conditions and practices within county jails, probation and correctional facilities, and group homes for children.

“Over the past several decades there has been an increasing occurrence of criminalizing and incarcerating women and girls of color,” Bass said.

“We continue to see young girls being pushed out of school, and arrested and prosecuted at rates that are grossly disproportionate to their peers. Yet women and girls are seldom the focal point of discussion when developing or evaluating criminal justice policies and reform. This special convening provided a necessary forum for community leaders taking action to elevate their voices and critical change for women and girls impacted by mass incarceration. Congresswoman Kelly and I will take what was discussed back to Washington and explore implementing solutions mentioned in future pieces of legislation.”

“When we talk about mass incarceration, we often focus on men. Yet, the rates of incarcerated women and girls of color continue to rise without capturing headlines,” said Kelly, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. “Many of these women are mothers and have caregiving responsibilities which makes their incarceration harder on their families. As we work to find ways to reduce recidivism and mass incarceration, we need to prioritize programs tailored to the needs of women, girls and their families.”

The event was held at the Community Coalition in South Los Angeles, a community organization that addresses efforts to reform the criminal justice system.

A participant speaks at the event community roundtable (Courtesy photo).