Back to League of Women Voters home page Back to November 1999 DC Voter
733 15th Street, N.W., Suite 432, Washington, DC 20005
202/347-3020, fax: 202/347-2522
Website: http://www.dcwatch.com/lwvdc, E-mail: LWVDC@erols.com
Speakers on Women in Prison Featured at October Brown Bag
About the December Unit Meetings
News from Our Units
|Women 2000 Beijing Plus Five
LWV/The National Capital Area
Our members are our strength. Please note the CALL FOR ACTION (p.3). Additionally, we need to educate our friends and relatives across the country about Voting Representation in Congress for District Residents. Please take the time to inform your friends and relatives around the country by adding a message to your holiday card greetings: A basic principle is at stake. Americans living in the nation's capital should be fully represented in the body which makes their laws, taxes them and can call them to war. Please support our gaining full representation in Congress. Thank you.
Our Units in November were about this very issue, so you are primed with up-to-date information. And it's possible that the results of the court case will be known by the time holiday card time rolls around.
Happy Holidays to all and here's to more ACTION in 2000! -- Liz Martin
Dec 1 (Wed) 10:00 a.m., LWVDC Board Meeting, 1620 Hamlin Street, NE
Speakers on Women in Prison Featured at October "Brown Bag"
We have come up in the world. TV Channel 16/District Cablevision covered the meeting. Pat Hallman and Connie Fortune were prescient when they arranged for this topic to be discussed on this day, the same day Congresswoman Norton was introducing legislation concerning staff abuse of women in prison. Cheryl L. Williams, legislative associate for women's issues on Congresswoman Norton's staff, started the discussion by stating, "Women in prison represent the least of the least." She noted that these women are often the most poor, the victims of abuse, from minority communities, single mothers, and poorly educated. While women prisoners are relatively few in number compared to male prisoners, they have a high AIDS infection rate. Many are in prison for nonviolent reasons, such as being implicated in drug conspiracies, or retaliating against an abusive partner.
Abuse of women prisoners can range from battery, improper invasion of privacy, verbal abuse, and improper touching to rape. In D.C. it has included shackling women during labor an outlawed practice that appears to be recurring.
Ms. Williams reported on special GAO reports requested by Mrs. Norton. The first one titled "Women in Prison, Sexual Misconduct by Correctional Staff" (No. B-282772; June 1999). The second related report is expected to be released within a few months.
During the 1990's the treatment of women prisoners became a significant prison management issue. Major lawsuits were initiated, including two in D.C., costing millions in settlements. There has been increased media focus and attention by organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as an independent fact-finder for the U.N. The number of complaints has been increasing rapidly but, with weak reporting systems, cases fall through the cracks.
In addition to the District's system, the GAO examined the nation's three largest correctional systems for women offenders from 1995 to 1998: the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the California Department of Corrections, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. According to the GAO report, "staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct is a problem that should not be tolerated." One difficulty in determining the nature and depth of the problem is inconsistency in reporting between jurisdictions. The study indicates that a significant percentage of allegations are not sustained because of lack of evidence; since, power and control are given to the staff, fear of retaliation is a major factor. Furthermore, there are significant needs for training of staff as well as volunteers.
Mrs. Norton's bill addresses training (beyond simply requiring manuals); confidentiality with respect to allegations from prisoners; financial incentives for jurisdictions to do well, coupled with penalties if they don't; and, improved consistency of reporting. How the D.C. League (and others) might support Mrs. Norton's legislation was discussed, with the matter to be submitted to the Board.
Our second speaker, Cathleen Trainer, attorney, serving part-time at the D.C. Prisoners Legal Services Project, Inc. aimed specifically at those sentenced under the D.C. Code.
There are major considerations facing such prisoners. As you know from the section on Criminal Justice in the LWVDC 1998 publication, ABC's...XYZ's, A Tour Through D. C. 's 'Revitalization' Legislation of 1997, the federal government has taken over the D.C. court system. Lorton will be closed and D.C. prisoners will come under the jurisdiction of the BOP before October 1, 2001. Further, the 1997 legislation required revision of the District's Legal Code, resulting in 40 serious crimes becoming subject to federal sentencing guidelines. This includes so-called "truth in sentencing" whereby a prisoner must serve at least 85% of the prison time defined by the judge ("determining sentencing") albeit with some time off for good behavior before completion of the full sentence. This contrasts with the flexibility for judges to set a range of prison time to be served, with allowance for parole (" indeterminate sentencing"). The Sentencing Commission established under the 1997 Act must define the amount of prison time for each of the 40 federally specified crimes. Ms. Trainer provided a copy of a summary of the provisions of the Criminal Justice section of the 1997 Act which was prepared by her Working Group. Call the D.C. League office for a copy.
The implications for women prisoners are wide ranging, especially since most women in prison are primary caretakers of minor children. The federal scheme does not take account of gender differences; thus, no mitigating factors (raising four children for example) are considered in sentencing. There is a particular irony in recent federal legislation aimed at speeding up adoptions and shortening time in foster care. Because states have a financial incentive to speed up adoptions under the federal initiative, some are concerned that they might look at the conditions related to time away from children (the original concern being abandonment), even though being in prison is not supposed to constitute abandonment.
In discussion, members also addressed some miscellaneous matters, e.g., the status of the two halfway houses in D.C. for women. None can handle the truly disabled, notably those needing wheelchairs. Members addressed avenues for assistance, e.g., CURE (Citizens for Rehabilitation of Errants) led by Susan Galbraith and operating a day-time settlement house. Before closing, a reminder of some recommended reading included two articles related to prisons that appeared in The Atlantic Monthly. One is "The Prison-Industrial Complex by Eric Schlosser," the lead article in the December 1998 issue. There is a follow up in June 1999, "When They Get Out, by Sasha Abramsky. -- Barbara Yeomans for Pat Hallman
Chevy Chase, 3973 Harrison Street, NW, Sue Whitman, 202/363-0853, Dec 15 (Wed)
December Units celebrate the holidays.
For the holiday season, the neighborhood Units will follow their own interests, which may be largely social. The Northwest Day Unit will hold its annual pot-luck lunch; this will also be an occasion to brainstorm a new edition of Know the District of Columbia. Call hostess Jeanette Miller to discuss what to bring.
A special holiday treat will be the Northwest Evening Unit's vicarious visit to India, under the guidance of our hostess, Traci Kammer Goldberg, who has just returned from a month-long trip there. Call Unit Chair Joan Domike for directions.
Members of other Units should contact their Unit Chairs to see what special activity has been planned. Make the last holiday of this millennium an extended celebration!
Remember: all are welcome to attend any Unit meeting.
October Unit Meetings
Chevy Chase and Northwest Day combined to hear Morris Klein, secretary Elder Law, Maryland Bar and member of the Long-Term Care Coalition, discuss legislation pending before the D.C. Council to regulate Assisted Living Facilities (see "Call to Action," p.3).
Upper 16th heard from Jeanette Hackney, beneficiary representative of the Delmarva Foundation, who often speaks to Medicare beneficiaries about their health care concerns. The Foundation was established to educate Medicare recipients to their rights.
Northwest Evening discussed mental health services for children which are fragmented and uncoordinated. Principal mental health problems in D.C. children are attention deficit disorder and emotional problems. Children in D.C., when compared to those in national statistics, experience higher incidence of socio-economic, environmental and biological risk factors.
Cheryl Cook from the Southwest Community Health Center spoke to the Southwest Unit about the vast array of services delivered by her organization as well as the cost and scope of services available to city residents.
Northeast Day explored questions on Patients' Rights.
Two Units gave "guidance to the board." LWVDC should: 1) be involved in the decision about building a new St. Elizabeth's Hospital; 2) emphasize school delivery of health services; and 3) focus on D.C. government agencies and services located in League members' neighborhoods. -- Sheila Keeny, Unit Director
Members of LWVDC know that free educational equipment is available for schools. Safeway members enroll their Safeway Club Card at the store or with the school of their choice and their purchase totals will automatically be credited to that school.
Recommended school: Garrison Elementary School, Code: 0230
After enrollment is completed, sales receipts include this statement: Thank you for participating in Safeway 's Club Card for education now through March 31, 2000.
Correction: The November issue of the DC Voter stated that Giant and Safeway have the same system. The Giant system is not the same as Safeway's, but it is the same as last year's system. Sales receipts are collected by members and deposited in the designated box in the League office. Please mail your Giant receipts to the League office, 733 15th Street, NW, Suite 432, Washington, DC 20005 After February 19, 2000, the receipts will be presented to a teacher at Garrison Elementary School. Thank you for your support and participation in either/or both the Safeway or Giant programs! -- Gladys Weaver, Connie Tate, Co-chairs
The I.R. Committee had a very lively discussion of the remaining I.R. positions at its November meeting. The committee voted to join the Montgomery County LWV I.R. Committee in a communique to state and local leagues requesting support for the choice of the I.R. area as the focus of LWVUS review of positions. This is in response to the upcoming survey in the December-January National Voter. (LWVDC Executive Committee agreed that the D.C. League would join in this effort.)
At our next meeting, we will review our notes on needed changes to the LWV's I.R. positions and discuss plans for the new year, including unit meetings, which we will lead in February, and the Great Decisions course, beginning in March. For further information, please contact Sheila Keeny (202/9661692) or Susan Rao (202/636-1688).
Please come prepared to discuss some reading or recent activity in the field of foreign policy. We have an interesting group and we can learn from each other's interests. Visitors are always welcome.
Other news of interest to I.R. Committee members: Evelyn Falkowski will travel to South Africa in December and Ernest Lent has planned a trip to Yugoslavia in the Spring. Susan Rao has just returned from England.
The United Nations has quite a clever means for people to participate in feeding the world's hungry population. Go to the hunger site at the U.N. http://www.thehungersite.com click a button, and somewhere in the world some hungry person gets a meal to eat. The food is paid for by corporate sponsors. All you do is go to the site and click! However, you're only allowed one click a day so spread the word to others. -- Susan Rao, Sheila Keeny, Co-Chairs
Leaguers attending the Chevy Chase-NorthwestDay Unit meeting in October were alerted to Bill 13-107 to regulate Assisted Living Facilities in the District, filling a gap in the current oversight process. A broad spectrum of stakeholders produced the consensus regulations including our own Sue Whitman, chair of the Long Term Care Committee of the Mayor's Health Policy Council. The Coalition's proposal is before Council member Sandy Allen, Chair of the Council Health Committee. The D.C. League has written in support of the regulations and we urge Leaguers to write to Ms. Allen with copies to Linda Cropp, Council Chairman, your Ward representative and At-Large Council members supporting quick passage of this legislation. For more information call Sue Whitman, 202/966-8754.
In October, I testified before Councilmember Patterson's Committee on Government Operations in support of legislation strengthening the campaign finance laws. To date there are no co-sponsors for Mrs. Patterson's modest bill. The bill increases the penalties for candidates who violate District election laws. The current fine structure is inadequate to deter individuals or organizations from violating District laws. When this issue was studied at Units several years ago, Leaguers supported an increase in fines.
The Bill also prohibits corporations and labor unions from making direct campaign contributions to candidates. On the national level, action was taken early in the century to guard against corruption and undue influence. First corporations in 1907 and labor unions in 1947 were prohibited from making direct campaign contributions to candidates for national office. Since then over 30 states have enacted similar laws. Again, write to your Council member urging support of this minimal campaign finance legislation. Send letters to: One Judiciary Square, Washington, DC 20001. -- Liz Martin, President
Women 2000 Beijing Plus Five
Five hundred women and a few men converged on the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, DE on Saturday, November 6, 1999 to follow up on the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women and the parallel gathering of individuals and members of non-government organizations. The purpose of the gathering was to celebrate the approaching fifth anniversary of the Beijing Conference and its Platform for Action and to learn ways to infuse new ideas and strategies into the respective organizations. Initiated by the President's Interagency Council on Women and the Stanley Foundation, the conference was one of eight being held between October 1999 and March 2000.
Members from the League of Women Voters from D.C., Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania were among the attendees. Video addresses from Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman were presented to the full audience. The Honorable Ruth Ann Minner, Delaware's Lieutenant Governor, welcomed the audience to the all day conference. Ann F. Lewis, President's Interagency Council on Women, highlighted nine items that could encompass "Translating Beijing Commitments into U.S. Policy." They are: create strong effective Title Nine legislation; provide access to education for girls around the world; provide health care for all women; end racial disparities in health; access to mental health care; strengthen Violence Against Women legislation; raise the minimum wage and demand compliance of the Equal Pay Act; and, protect the earned income tax credit.
The luncheon address by Dr. Patricia Flor, Chairperson, United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, defined "What the U.N. Contributes to Gender Equity. " The U.N. is the only institution that can set global standards which translate to "Women and men have equal rights and equal dignity." Ratification of CEDAW creates a legally binding authority to provide women the right to make a claim against the U.N. documents by petition to the U.N. if their government does not address discrimination against women's problems. Full ratification creates it as a global value which governments agree to support. Full United Nations ratification is lacking from 30 countries, including the U.S. She urged participants to contact their legislators to bring CEDAW before the Senate for full ratification.
Dr. Flor highlighted three ways to prepare for the Women 2000 Conference next June in New York City. 1) government and NGO organizations must be committed to and not renegotiate the Beijing Platform for Action; 2) celebrate and work on long term preparation; and 3) generate organizational commitment and action through energizing public opinion and making it part of the political agenda. Dr. Flor closed with a call for changing gender stereotyping by changing attitudes and mindsets. "We cannot change half the equation. We need action and partnership between women and men....We need a gender-sensitive budget."
Attendees were able to attend three workshop sessions from the following choices: Violence and the Reshaping of Women's Lives-An International Challenge; Building New Coalitions in your Community; Beijing Plus Five-Input and Participation by NGOs; Economic Strategies to Empower Women; Responding to Women's Health Needs; Women in Poverty-Challenging the Current Political Climate; Keeping the Promise-Cross National Strategies for Girls' Education; Education for Girls and Women-institutional Change; Impact of Race and Ethnicity-New Perspectives; Gender and the Exercise of Power; and, U.S. Women Connect-Mobilizing NGO Action. Sheila Willet
President: Naomi Glass, 202/686-0124. Editor: Forest Williams, 301/552-1681. email: email@example.com
After two years of research by a terrific committee and discussion at units throughout the region, consensus was reached on the issues of budget autonomy and a federal payment for the District of Columbia.
The following NCA positions were adopted: Budget Autonomy: The District of Columbia should have autonomy in budgeting locally raised revenue. The League of Women Voters of the National Capital Area (NCA) supports legislation eliminating the annual Congressional D.C. appropriations budget-approval process. Federal Payment: To address the District of Columbia's need for a stronger revenue base, the League of Women Voters of the National Capital Area (NCA) supports Congressional legislation setting forth the factors for determining an annual, predictable federal payment. The most important factors to be considered are:
Others might include the cost of state services provided by the District and the percentages of revenue that other U.S. cities receive from external sources.
As Elinor Hart. Chair of the committee that led us to this consensus, says, "To Leaguers, a position is a wish list. " To begin transforming our new position to reality status, we have asked our local League presidents to write to their Senators and Representatives informing them of our positions and providing them with copies of our background papers. It would be great if you, as individuals, wrote to your Congress persons as well. The more, the merrier.
It is not too early to think about Leaguers who might like to join the NCA Board. It's an exciting time for us: our new position on D.C. Finances is poised for action; our on-going water resources study and action, following last year's impressive publication, is still receiving much positive recognition and attracting invitations to participate in various activities; and our review of regional transportation/land use issues with consequent study (as needed) and action is just beginning. This is all in addition to NCA serving as a coordinating and networking body for our member Leaguers and facilitating discussions vital to the future of Leaguers at all levels.
The positions to be filled in year 2000 are vice president, treasurer and two board directorships. If you have suggestions (perhaps yourself?), please call Gladys Weaver, Chair of the Nominating Committee (202-554-3055). -- Naomi Glass, President, 202-686-0124
Welcome new members: Mrs. Minnie Fitzhugh, Sheila A. Willet.
Thanks to the following members for donations!
Remember the League in Your Will
Several League members have ensured the future of the LWVDC by providing for the D.C. League in their wills. A bequest is one of the easiest and most flexible ways to make a significant gift to the League. It does not have to be large to be important. Bequests can be a significant tax benefit for the donor and a vitally needed support for us. Please check with your lawyer for details.
Mayor Williams and Dr. Walks Answer Questions Posed at the League of Women Voters Luncheon held in September
Twenty-one questions were generated from the audience following the addresses given by Mayor Anthony Williams and Dr. Ivan Walks our September 21st luncheon. The questions were provided in writing to Mayor Williams and Dr. Walks. Below are the questions and responses (in italics) received to-date. The remaining nine responses will be provided in the January issue of the DC Voter.
Despite the trend towards privatization of public services, there are some strong arguments against involving private insurers and HMOs in public health care policy and ad administration -- A. Inefficiency -- HMOs take out a 15% plus bite for overhead and profit. Govern Government agencies (like Social Security, Medicare) take out 2-3%. HMOs restrict services to increase profit. B. Motivation HMOs have no incentive to provide inclusive, high quality coverage. If DC provided excellent coverage, there would be no reason for anyone to keep their private coverage. Question: Does the Mayor support involve involvement of HMOs and private insurers in either policy planning or administration of health care, especially Medicaid in D.C?
The Mayor supports accessible, available, and affordable high quality health care for all of the citizen's of the District of Columbia. His commitment has been demonstrated through his efforts to provide insurance to all residents of the District. However, we must be clear that possessing health insurance coverage does not ensure that residents of the District have health care. Through our Medicaid program, we ensure that all Medicaid recipients receive the highest quality of care available whether through HMOs or private physicians in the community. We have contracted with HMOs for several years and are pleased with the health care received by Medicaid recipients. To assure that recipients receive the highest quality care, we hold HMOs accountable to strict national performance standards. Additionally, Medicaid recipients have the right to file complaints, grievances and appeals to the HMO and to the Medical Assistance Office.
Could D.C. afford universal health care if it were the sole jurisdiction involved in the insurance (pool)?
If by universal health care you mean can the District afford to provide insurance coverage to all of its citizens the response is that we strongly believe we can provide health insurance to most of the citizens of the District. To do so would require us to work with the federal government and with the provider community here in the City. We remain committed to assuring that we can make health insurance available to all of the citizens of the District of Columbia.
The distribution of hospitals is so uneven most hospitals are in the northwest. Why should George Washington University be authorized to build a new hospital in northwest?
The Department of health continues to work collaboratively with the hospitals in the District in order to make care accessible to all residents. We are exploring ways to expand the continuum of services provided and accessibility through the development of satellite service delivery sites in partnership with existing hospitals.
How hard will it be to move money from institutional care into primary and preventive care?
The Department of Health continues to focus on maintaining a balance between the provision of primary care and preventive care. It is our mission to emphasize prevention so that our citizens do not become sick and then require treatment. A data driven approach is used to target our prevention efforts and obtain corresponding funding to support those efforts.
Would it be feasible to base drug treatment centers in existing surplus hospital space?
It is our hope that through our collaborative partnerships with existing hospitals they will maximize their space to provide needed services. However, we will need to always evaluate whether the existing sites are the most readily accessible for clients.
What will your Administration do to assure that the infrastructure of communications, training, certification, out reach and case management is developed to support your new managed-care, competitive-provider service delivery model?
We are currently in the process of reviewing recommendations that have been made to improve operations within the Department of Health. Our interest would be that the areas you identified would not just be strengthened to support managed care, but would be strengthened to support the entire Department programs and operations. Once we have determined the status of recommendations, we will move quickly to implement those recommendations that are still relevant to the mission and goal of the Department. Specifically, with respect to Medicaid, we have recently hired a new Medicaid director. He will quickly assess the strengths and weaknesses of that office and implement changes necessary to insure that managed care, provider relations and other services provided out of the Medicaid office are responsive to the needs of the constituents we serve.
Today's Washington Post has a very critical article about the District's drug treatment inadequate performance. What will you do about reforming the system?
The causes and consequences of drug addiction are multidimensional and our approach to recovery both as individuals and as a society must also be multidimensional. It is not enough to improve access to high quality treatment without concurrent effective measures to control the influx of drugs into our communities and to substantially change the conditions joblessness, poverty, and social isolation - which predispose our citizens to drug use and allow the drug track to flourish. We need to forge strong partnerships with employers, social service agencies, the business community, law enforcement agencies and health care providers. This strategy along with a continuous evaluation of our service delivery capacity will serve to improve the quality of care delivered to clients.
Last week the Republican Congress sent a tax cut bill to the President knowing it would be dead on arrival. It is felt that the tax cut would place Medicare and Social Security in jeopardy and eliminate the possibility of a prescription drug amendment for our senior citizens. Does the D.C. Medicaid program provide prescription medicines for its recipients?
Yes, the Medicaid program provides prescription medicines for its Medicaid recipients to the extent medicines are covered by the Federal Medicaid program. For those senior citizens who have questions about their prescription drug benefit under Medicare, they should be instructed to contact the insurer identified on their Medicare card.
I am particularly concerned about poor utilization of existing manpower. As a registered nurse, I am aware of inappropriate use of unlicensed assistive personnel. What can be done to manage this aspect of the health care crisis? School based clinics are a great example of where preventive can be expanded.
I am pleased that you raised the issue of school based health care. We agree with you that there is significantly more that can be done to stress the importance of preventive health care. We are currently in discussions with the Superintendent of Schools, the Mental Health receiver, and the Executive Director of the Public Benefits Corporation to significantly improve the school health program and assure that at a minimum all children in the District have access to health care services. The Department of Health is the licensing authority for all professional nurses in the District of Columbia. Each hospital, nursing home or other facility is responsible to ensure that all personnel are performing consistent with their licensure and/or certification. Through periodic audits and other activities, we are able to monitor facility compliance with specific DOH licensing standards, including activities and functions performed by registered nurses and unlicensed support staff If you are aware of specific incidents where unlicensed nurses are performing duties that are not appropriate for their unlicensed status you should inform the Department of Health, Office of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
How may general health care and mental health care be better coordinated in D.C.? Can these emphases be combined administratively?
In an ideal situation, the Health Officer for the District of Columbia should be responsible for all health care services in the District. Currently, the Office of Mental Health is under receivership and not under the control of the Department of Health. However, we are very encouraged that we have begun discussions with the Mental Health receiver to ensure better coordination between general and mental health care.
What happened to our public health departments? Do you see a role for their revitalization in your plan for preventive care for D.C.?
The Department of Health is the regulatory authority for health care activity in the District of Columbia. It is our responsibility to regularly assess the health status of the citizens of the District through surveillance and other activities, use information obtained from assessment activities to set public policy and to assure that the health goals are achieved. To effectively carry out our responsibilities of assessment, policy development and assurance, we work collaboratively with health care providers and organizations in the public and private sector. It is our goal to use our partnerships to structure a health care delivery system that emphasizes the importance of preventive and primary care. We, with our partners, are currently in the process of identifying specific tasks needed to ensure that there is an appropriate system of preventive and primary care throughout the City.
Does the Health Department plan to continue to have the Environmental Regulatory Agency within the Health Department?
The DC Voter is a monthly publication of the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia. It is available either through membership ($45.00/year) or through direct subscription (($10.00/year). President, Elizabeth M. Martin; Treasurer, Naomi Glass 202/686-0124; Editor, Virginia Spatz; 202/547-8504 (email: vspatz@Radix.net). LWVDC, 733 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005. 202/347-3020. Fax: 202/347-2522. Website: http://www.DCWatch.com/lwvdc. E-mail: LWVDC@erols.com.
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