an-onlooker-watches-the-annual-solar-eclipse-in-albuquerque-new-mexicoI had the good fortune of meeting Tom Daly who wrote a history of Shakopee women’s prison and he told me how women benefited from the educational offerings and the ability to visit with their children while in prison (his book featured below).

It was Tom’s opinion that the the recidivism rate stayed well below thirty percent when the prison was in a “reform” mode.  Today it hovers around 70 percent, like the rest of American prisons (now that the reforms are gone).

Most women in America’s prisons today are incarcerated under the Kingpin laws.  Most of these women are primarily guilty of being in love with or afraid of, some man (the kingpin).  The Kingpin has had years sawed off of his drug dealing sentence for each new “assistant/dealer/co conspirator that he gives us to prosecutors.  Most of these women never see the money, not a threat to society, never posing any real threat to society.

The average tenure of women prison wardens is under one year.  I spoke at a women’s prison warden’s conference in Bloomington MN a few years back and heard the stories of how awful it is to face these women and continue the grossly unfair conditions and punishment that the law requires.

Pregnant women are or can be shackled in childbirth in 29 states.

Most imprisoned women are incarcerated for Drug Offenses

The sexual abuse of women in prison is a huge problem

Most women in prison are parents and were primary caregivers prior to incarceration

The number of children with an incarcerated mother has doubled between 1991 and 2007

The trend is getting worse and no one benefits.  Counties spend millions of dollars to find homes for the children of incarcerated moms and it makes childhood much worse for children than a public health approach to the drug laws would.




From today’s Huffington post;

The Number Of Women Behind Bars Is Skyrocketing, And Here’s The Upsetting Result

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For many Americans, the Netflix hit series “Orange Is the New Black” was their first introduction to the inner world of female incarceration. The show is loosely based on the true story of Piper Kerman, who was imprisoned for money laundering and drug trafficking and later published a memoir about her experiences. It touches upon sexual assault in prison, the haphazard use of solitary confinement and the shackling of pregnant woman — all very real problems polluting the present state of female penitentiaries.

“I do hear from people who have been incarcerated, and feeling like the show is kind of an accurate depiction of what prison life is like, and also more than anything, from people who work with prisoners as well,” Taylor Schilling, who portrays Kerman on the show, said at a TimesTalk panel discussion on July 24. “People who are working on alternatives to incarceration and working with women who are transitioning from prison life back to civilian life are really finding value in the show, that it’s giving the population they’ve been working so hard for a name and a voice.”

However, after sifting through the most recent data on female incarceration across the nation, we learned the reality is far worse.

The rate of female incarceration in America is growing at an alarming rate. The number of children with a mother in prison doubled between 1991 and 2007. Most states in the U.S. still allow the shackling of pregnant prisoners while in labor, and the brutal practice persists even in states that have passed laws prohibiting it. In addition, more than 8 percent of female inmates have reported incidents of sexual victimization by prison staff or fellow inmates.

Check out the data on state and federal prisoners (below) to see the changing state of women behind bars:

Infographics by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post.





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