Tag Archive for Crime and Justice”

Women Are Fastest-growing Group of Incarcerated Persons in U.S.

Women dressed in prison uniforms sitting on st...

Women dressed in prison uniforms. (Photo credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University)

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), females are the fastest growing group of incarcerated persons in the United States. The annual growth rate for incarcerated women is now up to 7.5%, compared to 5.7% for men The majority of these women come from minority racial and ethnic backgrounds, are undereducated and come from below the federal poverty line. Most of them are serving time for nonviolent crimes.

An ACLU report states:

In the past 25 years the number of women and girls caught in the criminal justice system has skyrocketed. There are now more than 200,000 women behind bars and more than one million on probation and parole. Many have been swept up in the “war on drugs” and subject to increasingly punitive sentencing policies for non-violent offenders. Many of these women struggle with substance abuse, mental illness, and histories of physical and sexual abuse. Few get the services they need. The toll on women, girls, and their families is devastating.
“Of these women, a reported 85-90% have a history of domestic and sexual abuse. Their involvement in the justice system leaves many incarcerated women vulnerable to re-victimization.

Back at the end of 2001, 93,031 American women were incarcerated in federal and state prisons, making up 6.6% of the total incarcerated population. In 2010, more than 200,000 women were behind bars, most of them women of color. Hispanic women are incarcerated nearly twice the rate of white women, and black women are locked up at four times the rate of white women.

Many women come to prison addicted to drugs. Nearly two-thirds of females were primary guardians for their children prior to being incarcerated. Imprisoned women experienced a higher rate of childhood trauma than men. Women typically suffer more from mood and anxiety disorders.

Studies show that the way in which men and women cope while imprisoned differs in that women tend to form family structures, while male prisoners tend to isolate themselves and be more aggressive towards the other inmates. Women are more likely than men to seek psychiatric help, but only one-quarter follow through and get treatment.

The majority of imprisoned women have suffered abuse and experience post-traumatic stress disorder while behind bars. Seventy percent of guards in federal women’s correctional facilities are male, and rape, assault and groping during pat frisks are not uncommon—reinforcing inmates’ feeling of powerlessness. Women who retaliate face prolonged segregation, loss of “good time” and detrimental write-ups, which discourage future acts of resistance.

Women in prison suffer disproportionately from AIDS/HIV, infectious diseases, reproductive issues and diseases that are common to minorities and poor people, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and malnutrition. The U.S. prison system does not well accommodate to women’s healthcare needs.

One major effect of prison is the assault on relationships between parents and their children. Fully 2.4 million American children have a parent behind bars today and 7 million, or 1 in 10 children, have a parent under criminal justice supervision—in jail, prison, on probation or on parole.

Silja J.A. Talvi, author of Women Behind Bars, says:

During my visit to the segregated housing unit of the world’s largest women’s prison, in Chowchilla, CA, I was soon surrounded by the screams of these prisoners—moans and wails echoing off the concrete walls. It was disturbing to see women in what is a barbaric insane asylum, a place so invisible to the public and tax money.

“Nearly every one of the 100 women I interviewed had a serious history of trauma, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or domestic violence. Many had been raped. More than a third of the women entering the prison system were homeless, while 70% had moderate or severe mental illness.

“Since ex-convicts have to check that criminal record box on employment forms, and since they are not given public housing, these people will fall into an even lower class and will commit more crimes, sometimes more serious crimes. We are guaranteeing a more unstable society.

Related articles

Wikipedia entry on Incarceration of Women
Solinger, Rickie (2010). Interrupted Life:Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United States. Berkely, CA.: University of California.

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Signal Amplification: The National Juvenile Justice Network’s Leadership Institute seeking reformers.

The National Juvenile Justice Network’s Leadership Institute is looking for ten great reformers.

Picture somebody in your mind — someone you know — who wants to set the juvenile justice world on fire.  Someone who’s fed up with seeing kids get kicked out of school for minor misbehavior, locked up without due process, or any of a hundred other unjust, unfair things that can blight young people’s lives.

You can see this person in your mind’s eye, right?  You’re picturing someone who stands up, speaks out, and can work with others to reform what’s not working.   A person, in other words, who is ready to take the next step to grow as a leader.

Chances are this army-of-one you’re picturing in your mind is ready to apply to the Youth Justice Leadership Institute, a robust, year-long fellowship program run by the National Juvenile Justice Network that focuses on cultivating and supporting professionals of color. Our goal is to create the foundation for a more effective juvenile justice reform movement by developing a strong base of advocates and organizers who reflect the communities most affected by juvenile justice system practices and policies.

By the way, your force-of-nature will not need to quit his or her job. It does mean that he or she will join a hand-picked group of 10 fellows assembled from all over the country to learn about leadership, juvenile justice system policies and practices, theories of change, and how to develop their skills as advocates.  Plus, it’s free (or close to it). Travel and lodging are paid for; tuition is minimal when compared to other programs of this length and intensity.

Applications are due May 6, 2013.

Anyone who wants to apply for the Institute can:


This year, Diana will host two informational webinars for prospective applicants:

•           April 4, 2013, 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm EST (click to register)

•           April 10, 2013, 1 pm – 2 pm EST (click to register)


Please share this announcement with your networks!

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Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice

“We have a system of justice in [the US] that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes.” – Bryan Stevenson

The following talk inspired one of the longest and loudest standing ovations in TED’s history. 

Bryan Stevenson is a public-interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. He’s the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based group that has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent prisoners on death row, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. One recent victory: A ban on life imprisonment without parole sentences imposed on children convicted of most crimes in the United States.

Your thoughts and opinions are welcome and invited!

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News Roundup: Juvenile Justice

Prison BarsFirst of all we would like to thank everyone who made our signing at Warwick’s Books such a success! It means a lot to see what we do inspiring such a reaction. Thank you all!

There seems to be a lot going on this week, and juvenile justice is taking the lead in news stories everywhere. Today, rather than focus on just one story, we would like to present a survey of the current top stories.

First stop, West Virginia. 

The state’s juvenile justice system will soon be examined by a court-hired monitor, due to worries that it focuses more on punishment than rehabilitation. This is an approach that is both more expensive and less effective over time.

State Supreme Court administrative director Steve Canterbury is quoted in The Charleston Daily Mail as making a vital point on the subject:

‘I know that many citizens get very frustrated and they have the misconception that ‘rehabilitation’ means ‘mollycoddling,’ but real rehabilitation programming is stringent and demanding and at the end of the day that investment pays off in dividends because you don’t have to keep paying for the continued recidivisms of juveniles who have not been rehabilitated,’ he said.

Orlando, Florida. 

In a move forward, Orlando is implementing a new program that allows cops on the street to write a ticket for many juvenile infractions that before now would have resulted in time behind bars. Geared toward “slightly troubled kids,” the option is only available to first-time offenders. Even so, the projected cost savings are sizable.

WFTV notes some of the details in their coverage of the story:

The civil citation will require things like restitution, community service and courses to correct juvenile behavior.  These are much cheaper than tying up the court system, according to officials.

‘We see many, many children mess up and many of them don’t need to go deeper into the juvie justice system,’ said Secretary Wansley Walters of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.


The Lone Star State has taken some good strides towards a better system of juvenile justice in recent years, so it is a fitting place for nearly 700 of the nation’s top juvenile-justice reformers to gather. Such is the case this week, as some of the most engaged minds on this topic meet in Houston to share their strategies for reducing the number of troubled youths who end up incarcerated.

Bart Lubow, director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which is hosting the Houston gathering, says just locking kids up mostly doesn’t work.

‘Our reliance on incarceration is a failed policy. It doesn’t work for the kids; it doesn’t work for public safety; it doesn’t work for taxpayers, because it’s enormously expensive.’

New York

While advocates gather in Texas, New York is the site of a two-day conference for journalists, hosted on the campus of The John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice. The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange is blogging it, and I highly advise checking out their coverage. Here is a little of what to expect:

While the conference, Kids Behind Bars, Where’s the Justice in America’s Juvenile Justice System?, is primarily meant for journalists, many of the topics will be of interest not only to those in the field, but the general public as well.

Speakers on Monday include: Mark Soler, executive director of the Center for Children’s Law & Policy; Vincent Schiraldi, commissioner of New York City’s Department of Probation; Ricardo Martinez, co-director, Padres & Jovenes Unidos and David Utter, director of policy, the Florida office of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Also of note: The Crime Report is also blogging the event, if you’d like a different perspective.


As all know, there has been a lot of furor in The Golden State about the closure of a number of facilities dedicated to housing juvenile offenders. KALW public radio has today’s “must read,” article on the subject – an interview with one of the state’s most noted juvenile justice reformers:

Only three of California’s state facilities still remain open, holding a total of about 800 to 900 youth, and soon the state will hand down responsibility of juvenile offenders to counties. But [Barry] Krisberg, the Director of the of Research and Policy at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute at UC Berkeley’s School of Law, isn’t so sure that this realignment is the wisest decision. Turnstyle sat down with him to discuss the coming changes to California’s juvenile justice system and what they will mean for both the state of California and its counties.

So there you go, some of the top news on the subject of juvenile justice this week. I’m sure that as budgetary constraints get tighter and election season ramps up we will be seeing a lot more stories on the subject. We can only hope that the legislators of our nation remember that it truly is more expensive to do nothing!