[Pnews] Number of Women in Jail Grows Faster Than Men
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 17 17:20:47 EDT 2016
Two articles follow. Article from Think Progress highlights Theresa
Martinez from Justice Now.
_*From the NY Times
Number of Women in Jail Has Grown Far Faster Than That of Men, Study Says
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS <http://www.nytimes.com/by/timothy-williams> AUG.
When Dolfinette Martin <https://www.vera.org/people/dolfinette-martin>
was convicted of shoplifting more than $700 worth of clothes in
Louisiana in 2005, she had five children, no money and an addiction to
Seven years later, in 2012, Ms. Martin became one of a growing number of
impoverished women released from prisons and jails whose plight has been
largely overlooked during continuing efforts to reverse mass
incarceration, according to criminal justice experts.
“That cycle of poverty — not a lot of resources, not a lot of jobs, the
lack of education, you kind of give up,” said Ms. Martin, 46, who now
works as an administrative assistant.
On Wednesday, the Vera Institute of Justice <https://www.vera.org/> and
a program called the Safety and Justice Challenge
<http://www.safetyandjusticechallenge.org/> released a report
that found that the number of women in local jails in the United States
was almost 14 times what it was in the 1970s, a far higher growth rate
than for men, although there remain far fewer women than men in jails
The study found that the number of women held in the nation’s 3,200
municipal and county jails for misdemeanor crimes or who are awaiting
trial or sentencing had increased significantly — to about 110,000 in
2014 from fewer than 8,000 in 1970.
(Over all, the nation’s jail population increased to 745,000 in 2014
from 157,000 in 1970.)
Much of the increase in the number of jailed women occurred in counties
with fewer than 250,000 people, according to the study, places where
just 1,700 women had been incarcerated in 1970. By 2014, however, that
number had surged to 51,600, the report said.
And even as crime rates declined nationally, the trend toward jailing
women in rural counties continued: Incarceration rates for women in
sparsely populated counties rose to 140 per 100,000 in 2014 from 79 per
100,000 in 2000, the study found. During the same period, incarceration
rates for women in the nation’s largest counties decreased to 71 per
100,000 from 76 per 100,000.
“Once a rarity, women are now held in jails in nearly every county — a
stark contrast to 1970, when almost three-quarters of counties held not
a single woman in jail,” the report said.
The counties with the highest rates of jailed women are nearly all rural
and include Nevada County, Calif.; Floyd County, Ga.; and St. Charles
Parish, La. Each has a population of fewer than 100,000 people but a
rate of incarceration <http://trends.vera.org/#/incarceration-rates> for
women of more than 280 per 100,000, according to the Vera Institute.
Like Ms. Martin, 46, who was arrested on shoplifting charges 10 times
and was held in jails and prisons throughout Louisiana from 1994 to her
final arrest in 2005, the study found that a vast majority of the women
are poor, African-American or Latino, and have drug or alcohol problems.
About 80 percent have children.
Most have been charged with low-level offenses, including drug or
property crimes like shoplifting, but a growing number are in jail for
violating parole or probation, for failed drug tests or for missing
court-ordered appointments. Others are unable to make bail or pay
court-mandated fees and fines, the report said.
The trend echoes what has occurred in policing over the past two
decades, as the police and prosecutors have focused on offenses that
might have once been overlooked, even as rates for more serious crimes
have declined, according to the Justice Department. The result, critics
say, are overcrowded prisons and jails, many of them filled with
“As the focus on these smaller crimes has increased, women have been
swept up into the system to an even greater extent than men,” said
Elizabeth Swavola, one of the authors of the Vera report.
The study found that women accounted for 26 percent of total arrests in
2014, compared with 11 percent in 1960.
And the most common offenses that led to arrests involved drugs.
Between 1980 and 2009, the arrest rate for drug possession or use
doubled for men but tripled for women, according to the Bureau of
Justice Statistics <http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/aus8009.pdf>.
The troubles caused by the arrest of a woman responsible for supporting
a family can sometimes never be undone, said Laurie R. Garduque,
director for justice reform for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
which funds the Safety and Justice Challenge, whose mission is to create
fairer, more effective local justice systems.
“It has a cascading effect,” she said.
During an interview, Ms. Martin said that her children — ages 10 to 16
when she was last arrested — had all once excelled in school, but that
they had lost their ability to focus during her absences after the
shoplifting arrests. None of her five children, who were taken care of
by one of Ms. Martin’s nieces, graduated from high school, and her
eldest two were incarcerated for various periods, she said.
“I missed a lot of time,” said Ms. Martin, who recently received her
associate degree in business office technology. “You live with a lot of
regret, a lot of guilt — tremendous guilt — when you have kids in the
street trying to survive.”
*_From Think Progress_*
The Tragedy Of Being A Woman In Jail
Theresa Martinez knows all about how jail makes trauma worse.
The 52-year-old Los Angeles native was first locked up at the Sybil
Brand Institute for possession and sale of PCP in 1986. Since then, she
has been system-involved for more than 20 years, and done eight or nine
stints at another county jail in Lynwood, California. Every time she has
been thrown in jail, she has gone through severe heroin withdrawal that
has left her vomiting, nauseous, and unable to walk to the bathroom in
time to relieve herself.
“It’s horrible,” she said in an interview with ThinkProgress. “[The
guards] have absolutely no understanding to it. They do not care. You
might soil your uniform that you have on and need another one, and they
just take their time to do it.”
At no point during those periods of withdrawal did she receive help. And
as far as her overall jail experiences have gone, that was just the tip
of the iceberg.
Martinez is no longer locked up, but roughly 110,000 women are currently
doing in time in jails across the country — the fastest growing
correctional population. Thousands of those women have experienced
similar types of trauma as Martinez.
“You go into states of anger and states of depression.”
According to a new report
from the Vera Institute of Justice and the Safety and Justice Challenge,
there are now 14 times more women in jail — most of whom are nonviolent
offenders — than there were in 1970, when fewer than 8,000 were in jail
on a given day. Back then, roughly 75 percent of all the county jails
had no women in custody. Flash forward to today and women are being held
in almost all of them. The population of female detainees in small
county facilities is now 31 times larger than what it was in 1970,
accounting for approximately half of all women in jail today.
Yet the jail system is ill-equipped to accommodate the particular needs
of women in custody, and research about how they navigate the system is
scarce and decades-old. So despite entering jail in record numbers,
women remain an invisible population.
Unlike prisons, which are designed to hold people convicted of crimes
and sentenced to time behind bars, jails are designed to hold pre-trial
detainees who have been charged but cannot afford bail. Jails are
supposed to be a temporary place for people to stay in custody, but
inmates who cannot pay to get out can languish in jail for weeks,
months, and sometimes years awaiting trial.
In the new report, Vera and the Safety and Justice Challenge concluded
that, at its core, the jail system is not built for women
in particular, because they arrive with more social, economic, medical,
and mental health challenges than their male counterparts.
“There’s nothing you can do. You can’t fight them.”
For instance, while 35 percent of men in jail report having a medical
condition, more than 50 percent of women have one. Thirty-two percent of
women in jail have serious mental illness — two times more than the
population of men dealing with comparable mental health problems.
The vast majority of women have also experienced at least one form of
trauma. More than 75 percent are domestic violence victims, and 86
percent are survivors of sexual violence.
Statistics show that most of the women are low-level, nonviolent
offenders charged with drug, property, and public order offenses. Even
though they do not pose a danger to society, they are locked away in
jails that are likely to exacerbate their trauma and make their medical
and mental health conditions worse.
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