UN delegates, Joann Bell second from right

Representatives from four local ACLU offices joined Lenora Lapidus of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and Ashwini Hardikar of the ACLU Human Rights Program at the 51st Annual International Commission on the Status of Women and Girls hosted by the United Nations at its headquarters in New York. ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Joann Bell and ACLU personnel from Delaware, Michigan and Puerto Rico participated in sessions held March 5-7, 2007.

The goal of the sessions attended by the ACLU delegates was to insert language on conditions of incarceration into a one-page proposal on the treatment and rights of women and girls. Bell was chosen as a delegate because Oklahoma incarcerates women at a higher rate per capita than any other state in the U.S.A. Bell was also selected due to personal activism she initiated several years ago on behalf of a pregnant immigrant who was being held in the Oklahoma County Jail.

The efforts of the ACLU delegation were ultimately successful. Language protecting the rights of girls in custody was included in the violence and discrimination section of the Report issued by the Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.

The violence and discrimination section stated the following recommendations: “Take measures to protect girls in juvenile detention facilities from all forms of physical, psychological or sexual violence and abuse; ensure that the detention or incarceration of girls shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."