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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Megan's Law update




Thank you, Ronlyn, for keeping people up to date!

And thank you, everyone, for your vibes, prayers and good wishes!

Late last night I learned that the shackling bill was going to face a big hurdle today. The Department of Corrections (DOC), which runs the prisons, has said they're not taking a position on the bill. And that's true — sort of...

As one of the senators said, “You say you're not against the bill, but we can look at your comments and see how much you think this is going to cost and guess the truth.”

Instead of coming out and saying they’re against the bill, the deputy director came before the Senate Judiciary Committee today to share her concerns about the bill. Also, the DOC gave an analysis to the state of how much it was going to cost them if this bill passes, and the number they gave was HIGH. Those two things might well have been a big problem, and I spent last night and this morning doing last-minute research about the fiscal notes that other states included with their bills so that I would have a way of countering what they might say.

I was pretty stressed out about it — OMG! — and during her testimony, I kept wondering if this was going to be the end of the bill.

After she spoke, the senator sponsoring the bill asked me to testify again. And although I was only supposed to offer new information, I started by recapping what they'd heard last week. I didn’t want DOC's testimony to outweigh the rest of it.

Okay, so that’s cheating. Sue me.

Then I talked about how in Pennsylvania, they found they needed to have the same number of guards whether the inmate was shackled or not. I told about an incident (which I learned about this morning from the Penn. senator's legislative aide) where a guard left a shackled inmate to go do whatever (drink, bathroom, shag a nurse... whatever). And while he was gone the inmate became critical. When he returned to her hospital room, the doctor was on the bed trying to cut the shackles off with a hacksaw.

OMG!

I told them that whether the bill passes or not, DOC would have to look at increasing its staff because without having more than one guard, we are leaving inmates in danger if we walk off when they're shackled.

I tried to throw in every encouraging word I could. I told them that the Senate in Pennsylvania had passed its bill unanimously and that I was sure we could do the same. I had no sense of what they thought of what I was saying. Everyone always looks painfully serious in these hearings.

I went and sat down. Beside me was an inmate whose story I reported on a long time ago. (Unlawful Contact is dedicated to her stillborn baby — the result of neglect from the guards). She reached over without saying a thing and took my hand and gave it a squeeze.

And then they voted and passed it unanimously — and when I looked beside me, she had tears in her eyes. Of course, since I'm a crybaby, I got tears in my eyes, too. *sniff*

Now the bill heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which may be the biggest hurdle, because they have to find money for it in a state with no money. I told them they should tell DOC to hold a bake sale. (Aren’t I helpful?)

So keep your fingers crossed, and keep the prayers coming.

We’re in the midst of our biggest edition of the year right now, so I’ve got work to last me through midnight and beyond, probably. But I wanted to hop in and update everyone because I knew you were pulling for the bill today.

THANK YOU!

Oh, yes — students from a journalism class I spoke to two weeks ago were there. And there was a photographer as well who shot photos of me (but no one else — weird), so perhaps there's going to be media coverage of this outside my paper. For the sake of the bill, I hope so.

12 comments:

Lucy said...

Oh how lovely! It's so great to see your hard work pay off! I'm crossing my fingers that the next step goes off smoothly. :)

Ronlyn said...

I was happy to be your liason today. I'm SO THRILLED!

Debbie H said...

I am so proud of you! This is what you were put on this earth to do and you have done an amazing job!

*clapping hands and giving you a hug*

Rachel said...

I'm so happy for you Pamela! You worked so hard for this and I'll keep rooting for you until it's through the entire legislative system. If they need to hold a bake sale to pay for it, I'll ship in cupcakes from Ohio to help!

JennJ said...

WOOHOOO that is WONDERFUL news I am so glad to hear it! I pray it will pass all the other hurdles easily and that they can get this in effect ASAP. That story about the woman that went critical and them having to try to saw the shackles off is just horrifying and yet another example of why that is such a bad thing for a woman in labor to have to be in!

Keep it going hon and I'm proud of you!!!!!!!

Crystal said...

Still proud and still in awe . . .

RitaSV said...

OMG!!! How exciting is that? I hope, hope, hope that they find the law is not too expensive to implement.

Mitzi H. said...

You Go Girl!!!

What a great job you've done and although there are more hurdles to jump....You've done fantastic!!!

I keep thinking....if these Congressmen and Senators do not pass this reform....and a woman inmate or her child are injured or possibly dies during childbirth due to being shackled....History Will FOREVER reflect THEIR NAY VOTES.

If they vote No...I Hope their Names will go Down In History as the Representives that Would Not Vote For Change....

And I Predict They Will Always Be Remembered for the inmate/child that suffered due to their negative vote that could have prevented this unjustifiable treatment.

They Are Aware Of The Situation.

They Choose Not To Change It.

They Are Therefore Responsible For The Consequenses!!!

I have to believe that our representitives want to do what is right and I hope/pray they will see that this archaic treatment of women in prison giving birth is cruel and totally unnecessary.

I'm in your corner and we will win,
Mitzi H.

Pamela, I'm so glad and proud of you! You're amazing!

KCP said...

Oh how stressful for you and everyone rooting for this! But I'm so thrilled that it was passed unanimously in the end.

Lets hope they realize the human interest benefits of this bill and put their calculators away for once.

*hugs*

Mary G said...

And now I have tears in my eyes too. You are beyond amazing! Thanks
for keeping us updated even though you are so busy. And thanks Ronlyn
for being the go-between.

haleigh said...

I know I'm late, but I haven't had a chance to congratulate you yet! You've done such an awesome job starting this bill and getting so far and done so fast! I have every finger and toe crossed that it makes it through appropriations. Whether it does or not, your hard work and passion on this issue have been such an inspiration!

Thanks for the updates Ronlyn!

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