What a full week of alternative sentencing news. Following yesterday’s report from the Vera Institute discussing alternatives to incarceration, Tamar Kraft-Stolar of the Correctional Association of New York released today a fresh, 186-page report on the condition of women in prison today. Health care, particularly reproductive health, is of huge concern. Because a woman is incarcerated, she is not allowed adequate health care? More on the female jail and prison demographic from the report:
Women in prison are overwhelmingly from low-income communities, and a vastly disproportionate number are women of color. Many have had little formal education, and many struggle with serious health conditions, including substance abuse and mental illness. Almost all have brutal histories of abuse. A majority are mothers, often of small children, and many were caring for their children on their own before prison. Most women are in prison for crimes related to addiction, poverty, mental illness, domestic violence and trauma.
Further, “The U.S. currently incarcerates more women per capita than any other country in the world: We have less than 5% of the world’s women yet nearly 33% of the world’s incarcerated women,” according to the report.
The report states that alternatives to incarceration should be supported and are highly recommended, particularly for women and women with children. “The best solution to the problems outlined in this report is to keep women, especially pregnant women and women with small children, out of prison in the first place,” the report says.
Writer and reproductive rights advocate Rachel Roth has a nice post about the report, as well, on Mom’s Rising.
And the Brennan Center for Justice also released today a report about why crime is down. Tellingly—and pertinent to this website—the report says, “considering the immense social, fiscal, and economic costs of mass incarceration, programs that improve economic opportunities, modernize policing practices, and expand treatment and rehabilitation programs, all could be a better public safety investment.”
Expand treatment and rehabilitation. Yes. Improve economic opportunities. Please. Think about alternatives. Think about people’s lives. Think about the children of incarcerated people. Don’t let their time in prison or jail follow them—and their families—forever. Stop the invisible cycle.