WOMEN BEHIND THE WALL
The number of women in American jails and prisons has sky rocketed over the past few decades. Reports show that between 1970 and 2014 the population increased from 8,000 to 110,000, the report says. also much of the growth may be due to preventable causes like lack of affordable housing and mental health issues.
The number of women in small county jails increased 31 times during the same time period the report says.
“The report marks the first comprehensive examination of women in jails,” said Elizabeth Swavola, a Senior program associate at the Vera Institute Of Justice (VIJ), and one of the main authors of the report. “High percentages of women who end up in jail experience trauma, mental illness, spousal abuse, and substance abuse before going to jail.” Swavola said. “About 90 percent of the incarcerated women also experienced sexual abuse.”
Additionally around 80 percent of them are single moms and the only earners in their household, so when they go away to prison it usually impacts the entire family. Because these issues affect more women than men it shows a need for more community based alternatives such as substance abuse programs, more affordable housing programs, more section 8 slots and shorter waiting lists (realistic). Some section 8 waiting lists are 3 to 4 years long. Better paying jobs and transit systems that move people to jobs more easily would also benefit hugely because in some small towns where there are no jobs and people have to travel the van service gets a big chunk of the check and then the baby sitter. Even outside of jail a single mother can’t expect to move forward and gain traction.
These are not just problems of the criminal justice system alone, nor can they only be addressed by the criminal justice system only. it takes the help and awareness of entire communities.
Research shows that women are at a more disadvantage at every phase of the criminal justice system. Also the report reveals high rates of mental illness in women jails. this means that these women instead of being placed in jails could be moved to mental heath care programs. this is just another way to show how jails are being used unnecessarily at great benefit to public safety.