Dignity for incarcerated women, and the news in criminal justice this week

“America is home to only about 5% of the world’s female population, but we house in our prisons about 30% of all the women incarcerated in the world.”

On Sunday, #cut50’s Van Jones talked with Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay about the Dignity Campaign for incarcerated women. Jones and Topeka Sam also wrote about the need to include women in the conversation about criminal justice reform and the progress being made on dignity-related bills in Kentucky, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut.

“Looking at the big picture requires us to ask if it really makes sense to lock up 2.3 million people on any given day.”

The Prison Policy Initiative pieced together data from nearly 7000 correctional facilities across the country and in U.S. territories to build a full picture of our current correctional system. They found that the United States has more people detained pre-trial than most countries have in their prisons and jails combined, and that 1 in 5 incarcerated people is locked up for a drug offense.

“We should all want our communities to be safer, but filling jail beds or prison beds has never proven to do that.”

Attorney General Sessions spoke to the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Nashville this week, where he pledged to pursue longer sentences, and “reverse a trend that suggested that criminals won’t be confronted seriously with their crimes.” Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall pushed back, arguing that focusing on the underlying causes of crime will have a better long-term effect on the city. He is working with the district attorney, Nashville judges, and the public defender to shrink the jail population and provide treatment for mental illness and addiction.

“The Institution of Criminal Justice largely ignores the context of these women’s lives and the reality of their needs."

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition released the first of two in-depth reports about the state of women in the Texas’ criminal justice system. They found that 82% of women experienced domestic violence prior to incarceration, and 52% had an income of less than $10,000 per year. Their recommendations to improve public safety and reduce costs associated with incarceration included investing in community-level support that accounts for trauma histories, using pretrial diversion, and reforming the bail system to stop punishing poverty.

“Boys born into the bottom 10 percent of the income distribution were about 20 times as likely to end up incarcerated as boys born into the top 10 percent."

A study from the Brookings Institution found a strong correlation between childhood family income and adult incarceration. Family structure was a strong driver—children from single-parent families were twice as likely to end up incarcerated as the children of married parents, regardless of family income. The researchers also looked at prisoners’ places of birth, and found that they were more likely to have grown up in “socially isolated and segregated neighborhoods” and in predominantly African American or American Indian neighborhoods.