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Women and Prison

One of the fastest growing segments of the United States prison population is women. An increasing number of women are being locked up behind bars across America due to a variety of reasons. Even though their offenses are diverse, women in prison often share the same demographics and experiences. Many women behind bars are drug addicts who originally took drugs to escape a life of hardship and childhood trauma. Many were caught acting as mules” in drugs trades. The majority of women in prison have been victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. All of these women are overwhelmingly from poor and working class families.

U.S. Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics offers a report examining the characteristics of women locked up.

Anti-racist group Committee to End the Marion Lockdown describes the average demographics of women in prison.

Women in prison are different from their male counterparts for several reasons. Women prisoners are more likely to suffer from chronic health problems because the prison medical system is set up to serve males, not to serve the unique needs of women. As a result, many female inmates suffer from higher rates of asthma, gynecological disease, seizure disorders, and dietary problems.

Amnesty International features an article titled “Hidden Hell: Women in Prison” describing the medical treatment (or lack thereof) that women face in prison.

Many women in prison are subject to sexual abuse. Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance documents women’s experiences in prison and promotes strategies to tackle the current system full of discrimination, violence, and other injustices. The site discusses sexuality, motherhood and prison, and other political and social aspects of women locked up and features many stories from inmates.

The issue becomes increasingly complex when an inmate is a mother or is pregnant. Children are the invisible victims when a mother is sentenced to prison and they often suffer destabilizing changes. Society also suffers when children fail to bond with their parents since this may produce negative psychological effects.

Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers works to maintain the bond between incarcerated mothers and their children. The organization also promotes community-based sentencing instead of prison for non-violent offenses to keep mothers close to their children.

Foreverfamily is another organization working with incarcerated parents to keep family units intact.

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children discusses the problems children face when parents are locked up. The site also features articles on the lack of proper medical care for women in prison.

The Women’s Prison Association helps women with criminal justice histories successfully enter into society. The goal of WPA programs is to stress self-reliance for prisoners, while at the same time foster a national conversation on women and criminal justice.

The California Coalition for Women Prisoners organizes protests and offers information on sociological issues.

Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance documents women’s experiences in prison and promotes strategies to tackle the current system full of discrimination, violence, and other injustices. The site discusses sexuality, motherhood and prison, and other political and social aspects of incarcerated women.

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