When mom goes to jail

I’ve often pondered: What happens when mom goes to jail or prison? Are there alternatives a nonviolent woman can take instead of serving time behind bars? Is that fair? What would make such an arrangement fair if a crime has been committed? What’s appropriate punishment?

There are undoubtedly many questions on this topic—and the good news is that so many people and organizations are trying to figure them out. This The Independent article profiles Sam Green, who went to jail over two years ago for stealing money from her workplace.

From the piece:

Green’s plight is one shared by the 12,000 women sentenced each year in the UK, a rate of incarceration that leaves about 20,000 children without mothers, according to Women in Prison. The situation has prompted the charity, along with the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies,  to convene a conference in London next week called “Justice Matters for Women: Time for Action”.

The conference, which follows a call to action last year, will debate the criminal justice system’s perceived failures, alternatives to jail and measures to stop women offending in the first place.

Women in Prison’s director, Rachel Halford, said imprisoning women has larger consequences than does locking up men.

Issues of domestic and sexual violence, mental health problems and substance abuse “led [women] into criminality”, she said. “Consequently, these are all issues that, had they been picked up and addressed earlier, these people may well have not ended up in the criminal justice system.”

Just as in the U.S., the majority of women who are incarcerated have committed nonviolence offenses, and most women are mothers. And, it’s important to mention again that when a woman (or parents in general) go to prison or jail, their children are at a statistically higher rate to be incarcerated as well.

There should be a better answer than separating families and possibly causing the trickle-down effect on younger individuals.

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