Every year during the month of March, we commemorate and observe the vital role of women — in history, in our country, in our communities and within families. As with all progress, we must also acknowledge what more needs to be done. When it comes to the criminal legal system, women are facing incarceration growth at twice the rate of males. From 1978 to 2015, the female state prison population grew by a staggering 834%. In Washington state, the rate continues to increase.
Yet, as showcased in 8 Facts About Incarcerated and Wrongfully Convicted Women You Should Know, “When it comes to incarceration and wrongful conviction, women face unique challenges both as directly impacted individuals and as the people who shoulder much of the financial and caretaking burden when loved ones are incarcerated.” Some critical examples include:
- Women incarcerated are more likely to have a history of abuse, trauma, and mental health challenges. Abuse very often continues in prison environments.
- The criminal legal system never took into account women’s reproductive healthcare and nutritional needs (especially for pregnant and nursing mothers), so does not have any adequate way of meeting these essential, basic needs.
- A lack of childcare or planning for this need, especially with more than 60% of women incarcerated having minor children. Families lack face-to-face contact with families, and often children are placed in foster care.
- Re-entry into the community is daunting and extraordinarily difficult, especially in finding work, housing, and financial support.
As if these facts are not startling enough — more than half of women incarcerated have not yet been convicted of a crime. Of those exonerated, most were convicted of crimes that never took place.
As we continue to spotlight incredible, accomplished, courageous women of our past and present, let us also remember that there are far too many women we continue to leave behind — over 230,000 of which continue to face extreme oppression and trauma within the confines of our country’s criminal legal system.
-Jessica Bhuiyan, Development Director