No more prisons for women?

Advocates in the United Kingdom propose community sentences for nonviolent offenders, writes Patricia O’Brien in a recent blog post on The Conversation. Would it be so foolish to consider closing down jails and prisons for women in the U.S.? At the very least, a bigger focus on alternatives is necessary, argues O’Brien. She points out two programs in the U.S. already showing promising results, such as Adult Redeploy Illinois and another called Women in Recovery. According to O’Brien, 68 percent of the women who completed Women in Recovery since 2009 have not had further criminal justice involvement.

From the piece:

Essentially, the case for closing women’s prisons is the same as the case for imprisoning fewer men. It is the case against the prison industrial complex and for community-based treatment where it works better than incarceration. But there is evidence that prison harms women more than men, so why not start there?

Any examination of the women who are in prison in the US reveals that the majority are nonviolent offenders with poor education, little employment experience and multiple histories of abuse from childhood through adulthood. Women are also more likely than men to have children who rely on them for support – 147,000 American children have mothers in prison.

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