[Pnews] Number of Women in Jail Grows Faster Than Men

Prisoner News 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. 
17, 2016

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 
and prisons.

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 
nonviolent offenders.

“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.

        Unique experiences

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.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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