The Big Business of Prisoner Care Packages

Inside the booming market for pocketless clothing, clear radios & other electronic devices, food in pouches and other corrections-approved goods.

Inside the booming market for prisoner care packages

By TAYLOR ELIZABETH ELDRIDGE This story also was published at Vox.

It’s the holiday season, but many incarcerated Americans won’t get presents directly from home.

PRISON-APPROVED ITEMS

To stop drugs and weapons from entering jails and prisons, many corrections agencies bar family members from mailing packages or bringing them during visits. Those who want to send food, clothing and other gifts to incarcerated relatives at any time of year often must go through private vendors. (SEE NOTE BELOW ABOUT PRODUCT IMAGES)

CLEAR RADIO $27.99 | Wyandotte County, Kansas | Sold by ICARE/ARAMARK
CLEAR RADIO $27.99 | Wyandotte County, Kansas | Sold by ICARE/ARAMARK

Here’s how it works: Families shop from print and online catalogs supplied by care package companies. Every item is PRISON- AND JAIL-APPROVED. In some facilities, that can mean no glass or metal containers or no personal hygiene products containing alcohol. Items are often contraband-proof, from sealed food pouches to clear electronics to pocketless sweatpants.

TUNA POUCH $1.45 | Clark County, Illinois | Sold by ACCESS SECUREPAK
TUNA POUCH $1.45 | Clark County, Illinois | Sold by ACCESS SECUREPAK

For the holidays, families can choose from seasonal products; think red and green cream-filled Hostess cupcakes and peppermint Twinkies. The Los Angeles County jails’ contract for care packages includes annual “gift packs” that are given to inmates for free during the winter holiday season, complete with a card from the county.

EGG CRYSTALS $3.95 | Hutchinson Correctional Facility, Kansas | Sold by UNION SUPPLY DIRECT
EGG CRYSTALS $3.95 | Hutchinson Correctional Facility, Kansas | Sold by UNION SUPPLY DIRECT

At least one program, Access Securepak, offers RELIGIOUS ITEMS including the Bible, rosary beads and Allah pendants.

Prisoner care packages are part of a lucrative industry that provides a RANGE OF SERVICES to incarcerated people and their families. Companies that offer care package programs often bundle additional services, such as phone and commissary, into one contract with a corrections agency. Keefe Commissary Network, which along with Access Securepak is part of Keefe Group, reported net sales of over $375 million from care package, commissary and technology programs in 2012, according to a 2014 contract proposal posted on the West Virginia state government website. Access Securepak had over 125 active custom package programs nationwide in 2014 and was the exclusive provider for 18 state departments of corrections.

SWEATPANTS $15.08 | Correctional Treatment Facility, Washington, D.C. | Sold by ACCESS SECUREPAK
SWEATPANTS $15.08 | Correctional Treatment Facility, Washington, D.C. | Sold by ACCESS SECUREPAK

Companies often offer their services at no charge to corrections agencies along with a share of the profits. In its bid for the West Virginia contract, Union Supply Group, which oversees Union Supply Direct, projected that the state stood to earn about $95,000 in one year, based on a 17 percent commission of annual care package sales.

Honeybuns Calories 280 Fat 16g Sodium 210mg Sugar 16g Avg. Price $1.06
Honeybuns Calories 280 Fat 16g Sodium 210mg Sugar 16g Avg. Price $1.06

The privatization of services at correctional facilities generally leaves prisoners and their families with fewer choices, forcing them to do business with certain vendors or go without, says Wanda Bertram, a spokesperson for the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit that advocates for incarcerated people and their families and has conducted research on predatory practices in the prison and jail communication industry.

Pork Rinds Calories 80 Fat 5g Sodium 300mg Sugar 0g Avg. Price $4.05
Pork Rinds Calories 80 Fat 5g Sodium 300mg Sugar 0g Avg. Price $4.05

Although catalogs can contain hundreds of items, some relatives lament their inability to send a personalized gift. “We want to love the prisoner. We don’t love their crime, but we love them,” says Julie Tyson of Morehead City, North Carolina, whose son is incarcerated in a state prison. “It’s hard to do that through the calls and brief visits. It would be so nice to send a pair of socks or something I went and picked out for him.”

Perhaps because prison meals often leave much to be desired, food tends to dominate care package offerings. Most snacks and meals are HEAVILY PROCESSED and packed with sugar, fat and sodium. (Food typically must be in hermetically-sealed and tamper-proof packages, which rules out most fresh options.)

This gift will warm
This gift will warm “the heart” and soul with a creative blend of snacks from Frito Lay and Ramen, according to iCare’s online catalog. At Wicomico county jail in Maryland “Miss You” costs $32.99. Not pictured: Double Barrel Salami Sticks, Double Barrel Spicy Meat and Cheese Sticks.

There’s often a variety of PRE-MADE GIFT PACKS, like the “Heat and Eat” package sold by iCare, a program of the stadium and schools food service giant Aramark, that contains a quesadilla, soda and 10 packs of ramen noodles.

QURAN $22.50 | Chittenden Correctional Center, Vermont
QURAN $22.50 | Chittenden Correctional Center, Vermont

Most food items can be stored without refrigeration and consumed in a cell with the help of a hot pot, including dried ramen noodles, instant coffee and mac and cheese. In some cases, the snacks — such as Big Haus Sausages — are made exclusively for correctional facilities; other items, like single packets of mayo, are typically not sold individually.

PRAYER SHAWL $52.80 | William S. Key Correctional Center, Oklahoma
PRAYER SHAWL $52.80 | William S. Key Correctional Center, Oklahoma

iCare even allows loved ones to send prepared HOT FOOD to inmates; for example, New York, Virginia and Tennessee each have a jail where inmates can receive an Angus double cheeseburger, a calzone or a pepperoni pizza.

The three major care package providers, Access Securepak, Aramark’s iCare, and Union Supply Direct, each have relied on INCARCERATED WORKERS. Access Securepak has used inmates to unload trucks, stock and pick items from warehouses and assemble packages, according to a 2015 West Virginia contract proposal. In its 2014 bid, Union Supply Direct reported that it employed inmates to, among other things, clean freezers and manufacture clear electronics sold in its package program.

$1,248 Projected ANNUAL PAY for one inmate working fulltime in package program. (SOURCE: 2014 UNION SUPPLY DIRECT CONTRACT BID IN WEST VIRGINIA.)

 

SATANIC BIBLE $17.76 | Bernalillo County, New Mexico
SATANIC BIBLE $17.76 | Bernalillo County, New Mexico

“We deliver experiences that enrich and nourish millions of lives every day,” Karen Cutler, vice president of corporate communications for Aramark, wrote in an emailed response to questions. Correctional facilities determine the prices, nutritional guidelines and labor model used in their contracts with the company, she said.

Keefe Group and Union Supply Direct did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Prisons and jails have long restricted the types of items inmates can receive from the outside — nothing with poppy seeds, for example, or no boxer shorts with patterns on them. And where packages from home are allowed, workers have thrown away those that contained forbidden items. So some families may consider ordering through authorized private vendors, which only offer pre-approved goods, to be more convenient than navigating a prison’s byzantine gifting rules.

This pre-assembled package as a chance to send a loved one
This pre-assembled package as a chance to send a loved one “a gift bag full of their hometown snack favourites”. According to iCare’s online catalog. At Lenawee County Jail in Michigan, “Hugs and Love” costs $55.99. Not pictured: Big Haus Sausage

But others say sending packages through these companies can be onerous and expensive.

Ramen Oriental Flavor Calories 190 Fat 7g Sodium 800mg Servings 2 Avg. Price $0.85
Ramen Oriental Flavor Calories 190 Fat 7g Sodium 800mg Servings 2 Avg. Price $0.85

Corrections agencies set DIFFERENT RULES for how many gifts inmates can receive and how often they can receive them. In some facilities, inmates who are eligible to receive packages (usually those who are lowest risk and have good behavior) can get a care package once every three months; at others, inmates are allowed weekly deliveries. The timelines are strict, said Joi Davis of Clarksville, Tennessee, whose husband has been incarcerated since 2003. “If you miss the window, even by one day, you can forget it,” she said.

Keefe Coffee Calories - Fat - Sodium - Servings 18 Avg. Price $3.65
Keefe Coffee Calories – Fat – Sodium – Servings 18 Avg. Price $3.65

Packages can also be limited by weight, price and item count. Many facilities don’t allow packages that weigh more than 30 pounds. Gifts are often limited by dollar value; in some places, the cap is $50 a week, at others, it’s $150 every three months. The number of items, like hair ties or sunglasses, can be restricted as well.

“It’s a taxing experience,” Davis said. “There should be other avenues for families to be able to send their loved ones items that they want and need.”

Double cheeseburger and “extreme boneless wings” Available from the “Burgers ‘N More” section of iCare’s catalog for the Western Tidewater Regional Jail, Virginia. | $20.99 | (Image courtesy of iCare’s catalog.)
Double cheeseburger and “extreme boneless wings” Available from the “Burgers ‘N More” section of iCare’s catalog for the Western Tidewater Regional Jail, Virginia. | $20.99 | (Image courtesy of iCare’s catalog.)

Family members also complain that they’re often forced to buy their loved ones BASIC NECESSITIES that should be provided by the prison. Jennifer Gross of Livonia, Michigan, says she sent her boyfriend, an inmate in the Michigan Department of Corrections, a care package containing toilet paper after he told her he had gone without for four days. “We don’t expect for all our loves to be freed,” she said. “We just want them to have the basic needs and nutrition they deserve.”

Clear Typewriter $331.64 Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, KENTUCKY $209.00 Calipatria State Prison, CALIFORNIA
Clear Typewriter $331.64 Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, KENTUCKY $209.00 Calipatria State Prison, CALIFORNIA

Price is another issue. Relatives say that some goods sold in prison-approved catalogs cost more than they would in a store. At the very least, the PRICING OF ITEMS can be unpredictable. At Franklin County Jail in Pennsylvania, for example, a radio from Access Securepak costs $22, but in Custer County, Nebraska, the program sells that same radio for just under $13. At Arrendale State Prison in Georgia, a wire-free bra from Union Supply Direct is $13.80; at Northeast Correctional Complex in Tennessee, the company sells the same bra for $25.95.

Boxer shorts $3.00 Okeechobee Correctional Institution, FLORIDA $7.00 Moore Haven Correctional Facility, FLORIDA
Boxer shorts $3.00 Okeechobee Correctional Institution, FLORIDA $7.00 Moore Haven Correctional Facility, FLORIDA

Such variation comes from how individual contracts are negotiated between corrections departments and their vendors. In Los Angeles County, Keefe’s contract requires that prices fall within 2 percent of the cost of the same item at any three convenience and grocery stores within 12 miles of the central jail; in contrast, Aramark’s catalog prices in Santa Clara County are required only to be the same as or lower than the prices in the commissary.

In other places, pricing guidelines use the fair market price of an item as a baseline and mandate that the prices stay within 10 percent of the current selling price.

Some inmates have filed LAWSUITS against prison officials and private companies over the cost of care packages, with little luck. In New Mexico, an inmate sued over the price differences for identical products sold through county and state prisons. In California, an inmate alleged that his family suffered by having to purchase items exclusively through a private company with inflated prices and extra fees, particularly for items that he claimed should have been paid for by the prison.

The case in California was dismissed because the inmate was unable to pay the court filing fees. The New Mexico case was dismissed because the judge ruled that inmates do not have a constitutional right to goods at certain prices. The judge also ruled that many of the allegations made by the inmate could be brought only by government agents responsible for oversight of private companies, such as the United States attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission. In Mississippi, the state attorney general is currently pursuing a lawsuit against Keefe alleging fraud and bribery in its contracts with the state department of corrections.

Keefe Group, based in St. Louis, Missouri, is comprised of several companies that provide services to prisons and jails nationwide, including care packages, commissary, video visitation and surveillance technology. Keefe is a wholly-owned direct subsidiary of TKC Holdings, which is indirectly controlled by the Miami-based private equity firm H.I.G. Capital.
Keefe Group, based in St. Louis, Missouri, is comprised of several companies that provide services to prisons and jails nationwide, including care packages, commissary, video visitation and surveillance technology. Keefe is a wholly-owned direct subsidiary of TKC Holdings, which is indirectly controlled by the Miami-based private equity firm H.I.G. Capital.

Keefe Group did not respond to requests for comment about the Mississippi lawsuit.

Despite her frustrations with the industry, Davis estimates that she spends as much as $600 of her monthly budget on staying in touch with her husband through things like phone calls, visits and care packages. “It eats up the money, but you don’t want your loved ones to go without,” Davis said.

She has two recommendations for other families who want to send care packages to incarcerated loved ones: “Have a budget and a lot of patience.”

About our product images: The companies mentioned in this article deliver to correctional facilities only, so The Marshall Project purchased and photographed retail store products that most closely resembled items sold in corrections package catalogs. All catalog prices are current as of December 2017, except for the boxers sold by Access Securepak through Okeechobee Correctional Institution, Florida; they were sold in a June 2017 catalog.

Editor’s note: Tony Tamer, the co-CEO of H.I.G. Capital, which indirectly controls TKC Holdings, the owner of Keefe Group, provided the endowment that funds the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at the Columbia University Business School. The Tamer Center funds summer fellowships at organizations making social change, including The Marshall Project.

Credits: 
REPORTING - Taylor Eldridge
EDITING - Geraldine Sealey
PHOTOGRAPHY - Celina Fang
Advertisements

It’s A Fact: Women & Girls Have Vastly Different Pathways into the Justice System than Men.

The lineup. The pathways of 98% of women to prison carved by lifetimes of sexual and domestic abuse.

​​​​​​
Gender Responsive Justice Systems Matter.
A powerful body of literature reveals important differences in the reasons underlying men and women’s criminal involvement. The research conducted on women’s specific “pathways” into crime indicates that their experiences of victimization and abuse, poverty, mental illness and substance abuse play a key role.
Unless otherwise indicated, the data provided in this table was adapted from the document “Ten Truths that Matter when Working with Justice Involved Women” (NRCJIW, 2012), a cogent and comprehensive review of the research on justice-involved women.
https://cjinvolvedwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Ten_Truths.pdf
The US prison system was designed to house a large male population, and is operated by primarily male officers and officials.  
 
Women represent less than 8% of the total US prison population, and their unique risks, strengths and needs are often eclipsed throughout  systems lacking in gender responsive practices. 
 
Despite this fact, women are the fastest growing prison population:  The number of women in prison grew 800% vs. 400% in the past 30 years.  

Justice-Involved Women:  United States vs Illinois Trending

The following data was developed for the “The Gender Informed Practice Assessment” Report on Logan Correctional Center.
Disproportionate H​​istories of Abuse and Trauma
  •  ​​​The vast majority of women in prison have experienced interpersonal or sexual violence, with estimates as high as 90%.[i]
  • Histories of interpersonal violence are prevalent among both men and women in prison, but rates are much higher among women.[ii]
  • Incarcerated women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) report a much higher rate of witnessing violence than the female population in general.[iii]
  • Trauma such as sexual victimization is linked to mental health, substance abuse, and relationship difficulties and contributes to crime pathways for women. Women with histories of abuse and neglect are 77% more likely to be arrested as an adult than their peers who were not abused.[iv]
  • The correctional environment is full practices that trigger women’s past trauma, including pat downs and strip searches, frequent discipline from authority figures, and restricted movement.[v]
  • In Illinois, 98% of incarcerated women in state prisons have experienced physical abuse at some point in their lives; 75% experienced sexual abuse and 85% experienced intimate partner stalking and emotional abuse.[vi]
[i] Miller, N. A., & Najavits, L. M. (2012). Creating trauma-information correctional care: A balance of goals and environment. European Journal of Psychotraumatology.
[ii] Baglivio, M. T., Epps, N., Swartz, K., Huq, M. S., Sheer, A., & Hardt, N. S. (2014). The Prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) in the lives of juvenile offenders. Journal of Juvenile Justice, 3(2).
[iii] Hackett, M. (2009). Commentary: Trauma and female inmates: Why is witnessing more traumatic? Journal of the American Academy Psychiatry Law, 37(3), 310–315.
[iv] Widom, C. S. & Kuhns, J.B. (1996). Childhood victimization and subsequent risk for promiscuity, prostitution, and teenage pregnancy: A prospective study. American Journal of Public Health 86 (11): 1607.
[v] Miller, N. A., & Najavits, L. M. (2012). Creating trauma-information correctional care: A balance of goals and environment. European Journal of Psychotraumatology.
Benedict, A. (2014).  Using Trauma-informed Practices to Enhance Safety and Security in Women’s Correctional Facilities.  National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women. Retrieved from https://www.bja.gov/Publications/NRCJIW-UsingTraumaInformedPractices.pdf
[vi] Reichert, J., Adams, S., & Bostwick, L. (2010). Victimization and help-seeking behaviors among female prisoners in Illinois. Chicago, IL: Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

Higher Rates of Reported Mental Illness

  • Nationally, female inmates report higher rates of mental health problems than male inmates (73% of females versus of 55% of males in state prisons).[i]
  • Nationally, women in prison have more frequent suicide attempts than male inmates.[ii]
  • Incarcerated women with a history of trauma and accompanying mental health concerns are more likely to have difficulties with prison adjustment and misconduct.
  • Justice involved women are more likely to experience co-occurring disorders; in particular, substance abuse problems tend to be interlinked with trauma and/or mental illness. The majority of women who suffer from mental illness also have substance abuse disorders.
  • Women experience mental illness differently than men; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and eating disorders are all more prevalent in justice-involved women than in men.
  • The lack of trauma-informed practices and inadequate access to mental health services, combined with the experience of confinement, pose a greater risk of either creating or exacerbating mental health issues among female inmates. Also, correctional policies and procedures – and institutional environments in general – can trigger previous traumatic experiences, exacerbate trauma-related symptoms, and interfere with a woman’s recovery.
  • In Illinois, the percentage of all incarcerated women on a mental health caseload is 58% compared with 25% of all incarcerated men. Logan Correctional Center, the state’s largest women’s prison, currently houses an estimated 770 women prisoners diagnosed as Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI). In addition, a study of all women incarcerated statewide indicated that an estimated 60% have suffered from PTSD.[iii]
Note: While data regarding the need to address diagnoses of “Serious Mental Illness” among incarcerated women is compelling, it is important for corrections systems to explore their use of the category “Seriously Mentally Ill” and ensure that 1) appropriate clinical criteria are being used and adhered to when identifying someone as SMI, and 2) gender, culture, trauma, oppression and other factors are thoroughly considered so that women are not inappropriately diagnosed.
[i] US Department of Justice. (2006). Mental health problems of prison and jail inmates.
 [ii]James, D. J., & Glaze, L. E. (2006). Mental health problems of prison and jail inmates.;  Bedard, L., E. PhD (2008) Women in Corrections. Retrieved from http://www.correctionsone.com/women-in-corrections/articles/1843155-Female-vs-male-inmates-The-rewards-and-challenges-of-managing-both/
 [iii] Reichert, J., & Bostwick, L. (2010). Post-traumatic stress disorder and victimization among female prisoners in Illinois.

 ​​Disproportionate Involvement of Women of Color

  • Nationally, African American women are incarcerated at twice the rate of white women, and rates among Hispanic women are 1.2 times higher.[i] These rates perhaps most dramatically impact younger women: A 2012 study revealed that black females ages 18 to 19 were three times more likely to be imprisoned than white females, and Hispanic females in this age group had imprisonment rates nearly twice those of white females.[ii]
  • In Illinois, most state prison admissions for men and women in general, and particularly those of Color, are from Cook County. A decline in admissions from Cook County between FY2005 and FY2010 resulted in a decrease in the overall proportion of African American women incarcerated in state prisons (from more than 70 percent in the late 1990s to less than 50 percent among the FY2010 female court admissions).  Commensurately, the shift resulted in an increase in the proportion of white females from 20% to nearly 50% in that same period, while Hispanic women experienced a slower, more gradual shift from 2-3% in 1989 to 7.8% today.[iii]
In Illinois, while disproportionality has trended downward, African American women still represent 42% of the women’s prison population, while African American citizens represent only 15% of the Illinois population. Conversely, White women represent 51.4% of the women’s prison population and White citizens represent 73.5% of the Illinois population. [iv]
[i] Carson, E.A. (2015). Prisoners in 2014. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
[ii] US Department of Justice. (2013). Prisoners in 2012
[iii] Olson, D., Escobar, G. & Stalans, L. (2011) An Examination of admissions, exits and end-of-the-year populations of adult female inmates in the Illinois Department of Corrections, state fiscal years 1989 to 2010. Chicago, IL: Loyola University Chicago, Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology
[iv] IDOC Offender 360 Report  (2016).  US Census Data.

​​Higher Rates of Substance Abuse & Drug Crimes

  • A large proportion of justice-involved women have abused substances or have engaged in criminal behavior while under the influence and/or to support their drug use.
  • In a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics study, over 60% of women reported a drug dependence or abuse problem in the year prior to their incarceration. Moreover, there is evidence indicating that current substance abuse among women is a strong direct predictor of prison readmission.
  • Substance abuse among justice-involved women may be motivated by a desire to cope with or mask unpleasant emotions stemming from traumatic experiences and ensuing mental health problems.
  • Nationally, on every measure of drug use, women in state prisons have reported higher usage (40%) than males (32%).[i] In addition, 25% of female prisoners serve time for drug offenses, compared to 15% of male prisoners.[ii]
  • In Illinois, 85% of women surveyed in state prisons reported periods of regular alcohol and drug use and an average age of onset at 16.3 years old.[iii]
  • In Illinois, nearly the entire increase in court admissions of women to state prisons from FY1996 to FY2005 that led to the skyrocketing prison population were attributed to low-level, Class 4 felonies for drug and property crimes. Conversely, the dramatic 40% decline in female court admissions from FY2005 to FY2010 was also linked to a reduction in court admissions for primarily the same class of low-level drug crimes.[iv]
[i] US Department of Justice (1999). Women Offenders. Note: This is self-reported data. Actual number of offenders with substance abuse histories is approximately 80 percent (national data).
[ii] US Department of Justice. Prisoners in 2013 (2014).
[iii] Reichert, J., Adams, S., & Bostwick, L. (2010). Victimization and help-seeking behaviors among female prisoners in Illinois.
[iv] Olson, D., Escobar, G. & Stalans, L. (2011) An Examination of admissions, exits and end-of-the-year populations of adult female inmates in the Illinois Department of Corrections, state fiscal years 1989 to 2010. Chicago, IL: Loyola University Chicago, Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology
 More Likely to be the Custodial Parent of their Children
  • Nationally, more than 60% of women prisoners are parents, and women prisoners are more likely than men to serve as the custodial parent of their children.[i]  According to a  Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, 77% of mothers in state prison who lived with their children just prior to incarceration provided most of the children’s daily care, compared to 26% of fathers. 88% of incarcerated fathers identified the child’s other parent as the current caregiver, compared to 37% of mothers.”[ii]
  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation found that Illinois has the 7th highest number of individuals who have experienced parental incarceration during their childhood, totaling 186,000.
  • Children of incarcerated parents “…display short-term coping responses to deal with their loss, which can develop into long-term emotional and behavioral challenges, such as depression, problems with school, delinquency, and drug use.”[iii]  Children of incarcerated mothers in particular are at greater risk of dropping out of school and academic challenges.[iv]
  • “Preserving a child’s relationship with a parent during incarceration benefits both parties. It also benefits society, reducing children’s mental health issues and anxiety, while lowering recidivism and facilitating parents’ successful return to their communities.”[v]
  • In Illinois, a snapshot of the women incarcerated at Logan Correctional Center in October 2015 indicated that 71% of them (1,304 out of 1,835) are mothers of a total of 3,700 children.​
[i] Glaze, L. E., and Maruschak, L. M. (2009). Parents in prison and their minor children.; Ney, B. Ten facts about women in jails. Retrieved from http://www.americanjail.org/10-facts-about-women-in-jails/ 
[ii] Glaze, L. & Maruschak, L. (2008) Parents in prison and their minor children.
[iii] Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Keyes, K., Hamilton, A., Uddin, M., & Galea, S. (2015). e collateral damage of mass incarceration: Risk of psychiatric morbidity among nonincarcerated residents of high-incarceration neighbor- hoods. American Journal of Public Health, 105(1), 138–143. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/25393200
[iv] Dallaire, D. H. (2007, December). Children with incarcerated mothers: Developmental outcomes, special challenges, and recommendations. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 28(1), 15–24.
[v] Annie E Casey Foundation (April 2016) “A Shared Sentence: The Devastating Toll of Parental Incarceration on Kids, Families & Communities; La Vigne, N. G., Davies, E., & Brazzell, D. (2008, February 12). Family and recidivism. AMERICAN Jails, 17–24. Retrieved from www.vera.org/ les/the- family-and-recidivism.pdf.; The Osborne Association. (2012, May).
Higher Rates of Poverty & Unemployment
  • Economic hardship, lower educational attainment, fewer vocational skills, underemployment, and employment instability are more common among justice-involved women. These factors are particularly problematic when considering that women are more likely to have child-rearing responsibilities, particularly as single mothers.
  • Compared to men, it is more difficult for justice-involved women to obtain and maintain legitimate and well-paying employment that will meet their family’s needs, both before and following incarceration. Research has indicated that programming designed to enhance women’s educational/vocational skills are effective in reducing their risk of recidivism.
  • Nationally, women report greater levels of poverty than men and less employment history immediately preceding incarceration. In addition, those seeking affordable housing and reunification face considerably greater challenges. [i]
  • A study of the Women’s Prison Association found that 60% of women reported that they were not employed full-time at the time of their arrest (compared to 40% of men) and 37% of women had incomes of under $600 in the month leading to their arrest (compared with 28% of men).[ii]
  • A study conducted by the Urban Institute regarding prisoner reentry suggested greater challenges for formerly incarcerated women seeking employment.  A sample allowed comparisons of the statistical differences between male and females in several states, and indicated 61% of males were employed post release vs 37% of women.[iii]
  • In Illinois, 43.8% of women at Logan Correctional Center, the state’s largest prison, do not have a high school diploma or GED; and one study indicated that approximately 58% of women in Illinois prisons were employed either full- or part-time at the time of their incarceration.[iv]
[i] Ney, B. (2015, January 8). Ten facts about women in jails. Retrieved from http://www.americanjail.org/10-facts-about-women-in-jails/ 
[ii] The Sentencing Project (2007). Women in the criminal justice system. Retrieved from http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Women-in-the-Criminal-Justice-System-Briefing-Sheets.pdf)
[iii] Returning home: Understanding the challenges of prisoner reentry.  retrieved from http://www.urban.org/center/jpc/returning- home/
[iv] Reichert, J., Adams, S., & Bostwick, L. (2010). Victimization and Help-Seeking Behaviors Among Female Prisoners In Illinois. Chicago, IL: Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.  

Lower Public Safety Risk, Yet Fastest Growing Criminal Justice System Population Nationwide

  • Justice-involved women are less likely than men to have extensive criminal histories.
  • Women typically enter the criminal justice system for non-violent crimes that are often drug-related and/or driven by poverty. Nationally, women in state prisons are more likely to be incarcerated for a drug or property offense than a violent crime: 24% of women have been convicted of a drug offense, compared to 15% of men; 28% of women have been convicted of a property crime, compared to 19% of men; and 37% of women have been convicted of a violent offense, compared to 54% of men.[i]
  • The nature and context of violent crime committed by women frequently differs from that observed in men. When women commit aggressive acts, they typically involve assaults of lesser severity that are reactive or defensive in nature, rather than calculated or premeditated. Compared with men who tend to target strangers and acquaintances, violent acts committed by women occur primarily in domestic or school settings, and are more likely targeted at family members and/or intimates.
  • Women released from incarceration have lower recidivism rates than their male counterparts. This holds true for rearrests, reconvictions, and returns to prison with or without new prison sentences. Moreover, for the small proportion of women who are incarcerated for violent crimes, most do not reoffend with another violent crime.
  • Within prisons, incidents of violence and aggression committed by women are extremely low. Studies indicate that incarcerated women are five times less likely than men to commit such acts – 3-5% of women compared to 17-19% of men.
  • Despite women’s lower level crimes, arrest data from 2010 reveal that the number of female arrests in the United States increased by 11.4% from the preceding decade; this increase is in contrast to a 5% decline for male arrests. During the same time period, the number of women incarcerated in federal and state correctional facilities increased by 22%. Women now constitute one-fourth of the probation and parole population, representing a 10% increase over the past decade.
  • In Illinois, 34% of women in state prisons are incarcerated for a violent offense, compared with 43% of male inmates.  Women are also more likely to be incarcerated for a drug crime (29% vs 21%) or a property crime (30% vs 19%).[ii]
[i] Carson, E.A. (2015). Prisoners in 2014. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Incarcerated-Women-and-Girls.pdf
[ii] Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice Reform (2015). Illinois prison overview. Retrieved from http://www.icjia.org/cjreform2015/research/illinois-prison-overview.html
article originally published here images are copyright of their respective owners

The Women’s Risk Needs Assessment: Putting Gender at the Forefront of Actuarial Risk Assessment

Published by Breanna Boppre & Emily Salisbury12th April 2016

Women have distinct pathways to offending to men, often marked by violence, abuse, trauma, mental illness and unhealthy relationships – all factors which translate into needs and risk factors for reoffending. However, traditional risk and need assessments are designed with male offenders in mind. This blog post by criminologists, Breanna Boppre and Emily Salisbury of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, summarises the gender-specific risk assessment that was designed specifically for women in the U.S. to bring gender to the foreground of offender rehabilitation.

SPLC: Alabama prisons must address staffing needs and accept monitoring of failing mental health treatment

article published 10/20/2017 & originally posted here
An Alabama Prison
An Alabama Prison

The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) must conduct a meaningful analysis of the staffing it needs to address an unconstitutionally inadequate level of care for prisoners who have mental illnesses, according to a brief filed in federal court yesterday by the SPLC.

ADOC will likely need more than double its current level of correctional staffing and nearly triple its mental health staffing, according to the brief. Additionally, the court should appoint security and mental health monitors to ensure that ADOC is carrying out the court-approved remedies, the brief states.

The filing is in response to a plan that ADOC proposed to the federal court last week, claiming that it would increase spending for mental health care workers – and would double staffing in those positions – but only if the state legislature provides enough funding next year.

“Compliance with the U.S. Constitution is not optional, and the state can delay no longer. Mental health staffing is woefully inadequate in ADOC prisons, and the flagrant constitutional violations that result must be addressed immediately in order to protect prisoners with mental illnesses from an ongoing risk of serious harm,” said Maria Morris, senior supervising attorney with the SPLC. “ADOC’s plan to remedy these glaring staffing deficiencies is vague, unsubstantiated and incomplete. It must address these issues now.”

The filing is the latest development in the SPLC’s ongoing litigation against ADOC for failing to provide adequate medical and mental health care for people in its custody. U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson issued a sweeping, 302-page ruling in June declaring the mental health care system in Alabama prisons “horrendously inadequate.”

The court specifically found that “persistent and severe shortages of mental-health staff and correctional staff” are among the overarching issues that contribute to the inadequacy of mental health care in ADOC prisons.

The court also found that ADOC’s mental health caseload is substantially lower than the national average, and that this failure to identify prisoners with mental health needs is the result of a number of factors, including “insufficient mental-health staffing.”

Recruiting and retaining adequate staff will take time and funding, but ADOC already has the authority and funding to hire some correctional staff right now. For example, ADOC does not need legislative approval to fill its existing, authorized staffing levels.

“Throughout this case, the court has repeatedly made it clear that lack of funds is not an excuse for ADOC’s failure to provide constitutionally mandated care to prisoners with mental illnesses,” Morris said. “ADOC officials have known for years that they need more staff, but they have delayed addressing the problem. Now, they want to delay even further, leading to more pain, suffering and possibly even death.”

Morris said: “The state has an immediate duty to hire enough qualified staff to address the crisis in care for the mentally ill. Over the long term, however, the only solution to this and other problems in the Alabama prison system is to decrease the prison population by getting people the help they need to stay out of prison in the first place. The state should ensure that people with mental illness get treatment, instead of just locking them up and throwing away the key.”

 

Attorneys say Alabama prison plan inadequate, vague

The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s plan to improve correctional and mental health staffing in state prisons is vague and inadequate, attorneys for inmates told a federal judge last week.

The attorneys for inmates criticized the state’s proposal submitted to U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson.

“Commissioner Jefferson Dunn and Associate Commissioner Ruth Naglich appear not to recognize that they have been found to be running a correctional system that provides horrendously inadequate mental health care,” wrote Maria Morris, an attorney representing the inmates.

Thompson ordered Alabama to overhaul conditions in June after finding that psychiatric care of state inmates is so “horrendously inadequate” that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. One of the inmates committed suicide days after testifying in federal court about his treatment in prison.

Thompson ordered the state to submit a plan to address shortages of correctional and mental health staff.

The Department of Corrections told the judge in a filing this month that it was increasing staff and conducting a comprehensive analysis to determine security staffing needs, and had begun some of those steps before Thompson’s ruling.

Inmates’ attorneys argued the state should have deadlines for increasing staff and benchmarks for caseloads or the plan “will remain nothing more than words.”

Thompson scheduled an Oct. 30 hearing on plaintiffs’ request for additional information about the state’s plan.

Cost of incarceration in the U.S. more than $1 trillion

article originally posted here by By Neil Schoenherr

More than half of the costs are borne by families, children and community members who have committed no crime

mass incarceration in the United States

The cost of incarceration in the United States exceeds $1 trillion, or six percent of gross domestic product, and dwarfs the amount spent on corrections alone, finds a new study from Washington University in St. Louis.

“The $80 billion spent annually on corrections is frequently cited as the cost of incarceration, but this figure considerably underestimates the true cost by ignoring important social costs,” said Carrie Pettus-Davis, assistant professor at the Brown School and an expert on incarceration.

A new study, “The Economic Burden of Incarceration in the U.S.,” led by doctoral student Michael McLaughlin, with assistance from Pettus-Davis, draws on a burgeoning area of scholarship to assign monetary values to include costs to incarcerated persons, families, children and communities, which yield an aggregate burden of $1.2 trillion dollars.

Carrie Pettus-Davis
Carrie Pettus-Davis

“We find that for every dollar in corrections costs, incarceration generates an additional $10 in social costs,” said Pettus-Davis, director of the Concordance Institute for Advancing Social Justice and co-director of the Smart Decarceration Initiative.

“More than half of the costs are borne by families, children and community members who have committed no crime,” she said.

The scale of incarceration in the U.S. over the past 40 years is unprecedented, Pettus-Davis said. The prison population grew seven-fold as this country became the world leader in incarceration.

“Researchers have devoted considerable effort to estimating the cost of crime, but no study has yet estimated the aggregate burden of incarceration,” Pettus-Davis said.

“Recent reports highlighting the costs to incarcerated persons, families, and communities have made it possible to estimate the true cost of incarceration,” she said. “This is important because it suggests that the true cost has been grossly underestimated, perhaps resulting in a level of incarceration beyond that which is socially optimal.”

 

Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017

By Aleks Kajstura October 19, 2017 and originally published here

With growing public attention to the problem of mass incarceration, people want to know about women’s experience with incarceration. How many women are held in prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities in the United States? And why are they there? While these are important questions, finding those answers requires not only disentangling the country’s decentralized and overlapping criminal justice systems, but also unearthing the frustratingly hard to find and often altogether missing data on gender.

This report provides a first-of-its-kind detailed view of the 219,000 women incarcerated in the United States, and how they fit into the even larger picture of correctional control. Since 2014, the Prison Policy Initiative has quantified the number of people incarcerated in the United States, and calculated the breakdown of people held by each correctional system by offense in an annual Whole Pie: Mass Incarceration report. This report, done in collaboration with the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, finally provides similar data on women incarcerated in the Unites States. We break the data down to show the various correctional systems that control women, and to examine why women in the various systems of confinement are locked up:

Graphic showing how many women are locked up in the United States
Graphic showing how many women are locked up in the United States

In stark contrast to the total incarcerated population, where the state prison systems hold twice as many people as are held in jails, incarcerated women are nearly evenly split between state prisons and local jails.

The explanation for exactly what happened, when, and why does not yet exist because the data on women has long been obscured by the larger picture of men’s incarceration. The disaggregated numbers presented here are an important first step to ensuring that women are not left behind in the effort to end mass incarceration.

Women are disproportionately stuck in jails

A staggering number of women who are incarcerated are not even convicted: more than a quarter of women who are behind bars have not yet had a trial. Moreover, 60% of women in jail have not been convicted of a crime and are awaiting trial.

Avoiding pre-trial incarceration is uniquely challenging for women. The number of unconvicted women stuck in jail is surely not because courts are considering women, who are generally the primary caregivers of children, to be a flight risk. The far more likely answer is that incarcerated women, who have lower incomes than incarcerated men, have an even harder time affording cash bail. A previous study found that women who could not make bail had an annual median income of just $11,071. And among those women, Black women had a median annual income of only $9,083 (just 20% that of a white non-incarcerated man). When the typical $10,000 bail amounts to a full year’s income, it’s no wonder that women are stuck in jail awaiting trial.

Even once convicted, the system funnels women into jails: About a quarter of convicted incarcerated women are held in jails, compared to about 10% of all people incarcerated with a conviction.

So what does it mean that large numbers of women are held in jail – for them, and for their families? While stays in jail are generally shorter than in stays in prison, jails make it harder to stay in touch with family than prisons do. Phone calls are more expensive, up to $1.50 per minute, and other forms of communication are more restricted – some jails don’t even allow real letters, limiting mail to postcards. This is especially troubling given that 80% of women in jails are mothers, and most of them are primary caretakers of their children. Thus children are particularly susceptible to the domino effect of burdens placed on incarcerated women.

Women in jails are also more likely to suffer from mental health problems and experience serious psychological distress than either women in prisons or men in either correctional setting.

Ending mass incarceration requires looking at all offenses

The numbers revealed by this report enable a national conversation about the policies that impact incarcerated women held in various facilities, and also serve as the foundation for discussions to change the policies that lead to incarcerating women in the first place.

All too often, the conversation about criminal justice reform starts and stops with the question of non-violent drug and property offenses. While drug and property offenses make up more than half of the offenses for which women are incarcerated, the chart reveals that all offenses, including violent offenses that account for roughly a quarter of all incarcerated women, must be considered in the effort to reduce the number of incarcerated women in this country. This new data on women underlines the need for reform discussions to focus not just on the easier choices but on choices that can lead to impactful policy changes.

The tentacles of mass incarceration have a long reach

Even the “Whole Pie” of incarceration above represents just one small portion (16%) of the women under correctional supervision. Again, this is in stark contrast to the general incarcerated population (mostly men), where a full third of those under correctional control are in prisons and jails.

Graphic showing the correctional control of women
Graphic showing the correctional control of women

The picture of women’s incarceration is far from complete, and many questions remain about mass incarceration’s unique impact on women. Based on our analysis in this report we know that a quarter of incarcerated women are unconvicted. But is that number growing? And how does that undue incarceration load intersect with women’s disproportionate caregiving burdens to impact families? Beyond these big picture questions there are a plethora of detailed data points that are not reported for women by any government agencies, such as the simple number of women incarcerated in U.S. Territories.

While more data is needed, the data in this report lends focus and perspective to the policy changes needed to end mass incarceration without leaving women behind.

Read about the data

This briefing uses the most recent data available on the number of people in various types of facilities and the most significant charge or conviction. Because not all types of data are collected each year, we sometimes had to combine differing data sets; for example, we applied the percentage distribution of offense types from the previous year to the current year’s total count data. To smooth out these differing levels of vintage and precision among the sources, we choose to round all figures in the graphic. This process may, however, result in various parts not adding up precisely to the total.

  • Jails: Calculated based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jail Inmates in 2015, Table 3 (average of yearend 2014 and midyear 2015). The Bureau of Justice Statistics has stopped collecting data on the conviction status of women in jails in 2009, so we calculated the breakdown based on 2009 data published in the Jail Inmates at Midyear 2013 – Statistical Tables. Our analysis of offense types is based on the Survey Of Inmates In Local Jails, 2002. See below and Who is in jail? Deep dive for why we used our own analysis rather than the otherwise excellent Bureau of Justice Statistics analysis of the same dataset, Profiles of Jail Inmates, 2002. While this methodology section illustrates the pervasive dearth of women’s criminal justice data, this 2002 data continues to be the most recent data available of its kind without regard to gender breakdown, until the Bureau of Justice Statistics begins administering the next Survey of Inmates in Local Jails in 2018.
  • Immigration detention: Calculated based on the United States Government Accountability Office Report to Congressional Requesters, Immigration Detention: Additional Actions Could Strengthen DHS Efforts to Address Sexual Abuse, which reports that women made up 9% of the 2012 fiscal year detainee population, and the total number of detainees (41,000) comes from page 7 of Report of the Subcommittee on Privatized Immigration Detention Facilities, December 1, 2016, by the Homeland Security Advisory Council. In November 2016, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was seeking additional (but unspecified) incarceration capacity, so this 41,000 number has likely already grown. The impact of the current administration’s increased ICE activities on the total population, let alone women, is not yet known.
  • Federal: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2015, Table 10, reports percentage breakdown of offense types for the convicted population as of September 30, 2015, and the total population of women reported in Table 2, for December 31, 2015. We did not attempt to separate out convicted and unconvicted from the federal slice of the pie and instead proportionally applied the offenses for the convicted population to the unconvicted population.
  • State Prisons: Prisoners in 2015, Table 2 provides the gender breakdown for the total population as of December 31st, 2015, and Table 9 provides data (as of December 31, 2014) that we used to calculate the ratio of different offense types.
  • Military: The latest gender breakdown we could find was in Correctional Populations in the United States, 1998, Table 8.5, which reported the number of prisoners under military jurisdiction, by officer and enlisted status, gender, race, and Hispanic origin, for December 31, 1998. We calculated the number of women for our military slice by imputing the percentages from 1998 to the numbers reported in Prisoners in 2015, Appendix Table 7, which gives the number of people incarcerated in by each branch of the military, but does not provide a gender breakdown.
  • Territorial Prisons (correctional facilities in the U.S. Territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Commonwealths of Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico): Calculated based on World Prison Brief data reporting the most recent data available, ranging from 2007 (Northern Mariana Islands) to 2015 (Puerto Rico).
  • Youth: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement, reporting data for 2015. To keep things comparable with the other parts of the pie, we choose to include only those youth in detention centers, long-term secure facilities, and reception/diagnostic centers. We did not include other placements outside the home.
  • Civil Commitment (At least 20 states and the federal government operate facilities for the purposes of detaining people convicted of sexual crimes after their sentences are complete. These facilities and the confinement there are technically civil, but in reality are quite like prisons. People under civil commitment are held in custody continuously from the time they start serving their sentence at a correctional facility through their confinement in the civil facility.): The Sex Offender Civil Commitment Programs Network conducts an annual survey, and the civil commitment data came from an email with SOCCPN President Shan Jumper on May 11, 2017, estimating that there were 6 or 7 women total, nationally (based on the SOCCPN 2016 Annual Survey). And according to the Common Questions about Civil Commitment as a Sexually Violent Person (Adopted by the ATSA and the Sex Offender Civil Commitment Programs Network Executive Boards of Directors on October 13, 2015), there are “a few women throughout the country who have been committed.”
  • Indian Country (correctional facilities operated by tribal authorities or the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs): Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Jails in Indian Country, 2015, Table 5, reporting data for midyear, 2015.
  • Probation and Parole: Our counts of women incarcerated and under community supervision are from Correctional Populations in the United States, 2015, Appendix Table 3, reporting data for December 31, 2015. In order to break out community supervision between Probation and Parole, we used Probation and Parole in the United States, 2015 for the percentage of women in the Parole and Probation population. (Table 6 for Parole and Table 4 for Probation) and applied that ratio to the totals reported in CSAT (these numbers are the numbers that appear, rounded, in table 1 of CPUS). We then adjusted those numbers to ensure that people with multiple statuses were counted only once in their most restrictive category. (Because gender-specific data on people with more than one correctional status was not available, we reduced the number of women on probation and on parole by the ratio (3.54% for parole and 1.64% for probation) we used for Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017). For readers interested in knowing the total number of people on parole and probation, ignoring any double-counting with other forms of correctional control, there are 113,200 women on parole and 947,400 women on probation.

Several data definitions and clarifications may be helpful to researchers reusing this data in new ways:

  • To avoid double-counting women held in local jails on behalf of the Bureau of Prisons, ICE, U.S. Marshals Service, state, and other prison authorities from being counted twice, we removed the 7,763 women from the jail population reported by the BJS and from the numbers we used to calculate the number of convicted women in local jails. Our calculation for the number of women held in such arrangements was based on data reported for the total number of people held in jails for federal and state authorities in Appendix Table 2 of Prisoners in 2015, and total number of people held in jails for ICE, from page 7 of Report of the Subcommittee on Privatized Immigration Detention Facilities, December 1, 2016, by the Homeland Security Advisory Council and the 2002 Survey Of Inmates In Local Jails, 2002, where our analysis showed that about 8.5% of those held in such arrangements were women.
  • Because we removed ICE detainees and people under the jurisdiction of federal and state authorities from the jail population, we had to recalculate the offense distribution reported in Survey Of Inmates In Local Jails, 2002 who were “convicted” or “not convicted” without the people who reported that they were being held on behalf of state authorities, the Federal Bureau of Prisons or U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Our definition of “convicted” was those who reported that they were “To serve a sentence in this jail,” “To await sentencing for an offense,” or “To await transfer to serve a sentence somewhere else”. Our definition of not convicted was “To stand trial for an offense,” “To await arraignment,” or “To await a hearing for revocation of probation/parole or community release”.
  • We also accounted for women held in federal pre-trial detention who are confined in facilities other than federal and state prisons. We found 1,536 women held by, or for, the U.S. Marshals Service. Census of Jails: Population Changes, 1999-2013 Table 13 reports that 848 women are in Federal Bureau of Prisons detention centers and we estimate that another 688 are in private facilities contracted out to the U.S. Marshals Service. We included these 1,536 women total in the Federal Prisons slice of the pie.
  • Additionally, a significant portion of the jail population is not in fact under local jurisdiction, but is in a local jail under contract with the U.S. Marshals Service. This population, which in 2013 was 26,176 for both men and women consists of both people who are awaiting trial, and those who are convicted but have not yet been sentenced, so they appear in both the convicted and unconvicted local jail slices. This is part of why, for example, our total pie chart shows 1,000 people “serving” sentences in jails for murder when murder is typically an offense that warrants much longer sentences than would be served in a jail. We have not yet developed a way to separately identify and describe this population, let alone disentangle which portion of the reported numbers is women. (Similarly, in 2013, the Marshals Service had about 10,000 people – mostly in states that do not have separate jail systems – in state prisons for the same reasons.) We hope to, in future versions of this report, develop more detailed ways to display and describe this population.
  • Lastly, the youth slice does not include 333 girls held in adult jails and prisons. There are 300 girls under the age of 17 held in local jails (calculated by comparing the adult female and total female population reported in Table 3 of Bureau of Justice Statistics Jail Inmates in 2015 [https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ji15.pdf]), and 33 girls under the age of 18 held in state or federal prisons (as reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics Quick Table, Reported number of inmates under age 18 held in custody in federal or state prisons [XLS], December 31, 2000-2015).
  • Separately, note that we did not include a breakdown of the slices by race or ethnicity, because that data does not exist. All together, however, incarcerated women are 53% White, 28.6% Black, 14.2% Hispanic, 2.5% American Indian and Alaskan Native, 0.9% Asian, and 0.4% Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.

See the footnotes

  1. Illustrated in our work comparing individual states’ incarceration rates to other countries.
  2. For example, the Vera Institute of Justice has a useful report on women in jails entitled, Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform.
  3. The median annual income for unincarcerated men was $39,600, and $22,704 for unincarcerated women of similar ages.
  4. For a detailed analysis of lengths of stay, see comments submitted to the Census Bureau from the Vera Institute of Justice and the Prison Policy Initiative and Dēmos.
  5. A gender analysis of the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners and Jail Inmates 2011-12 report is available in the blog post New government report points to continuing mental health crisis in prisons and jails. And for anyone still unsure of the harms of jail, just look at the suicide rates in U.S. jails.
  6. Probation also varies wildly between states.
  7. Reporting from the New York Times,Probation May Sound Light, but Punishments Can Land Hard, captures the typical cascading fees and conditions while following one woman’s navigation of probation.

Acknowledgements

This report was made possible by the partnership of the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice, the support of the Public Welfare Foundation, and all of the donors, researchers, programmers and designers who helped the Prison Policy Initiative develop the Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie series of reports.

The ACLU wishes to thank John Cutler, Udi Ofer, and Adina Ellis for their assistance with this report.

About the author

Aleks Kajstura is Legal Director of the Prison Policy Initiative. Her previous publications on women’s incarceration include States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context.

About the Prison Policy Initiative

The non-profit non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative was founded in 2001 to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization and spark advocacy campaigns to create a more just society. The organization is most well-known for its big-picture publication Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie that helps the public more fully engage in criminal justice reform.

About the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice

The ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice is an unprecedented, multiyear effort to cut the nation’s jail and prison populations by 50% and challenge racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The Campaign is building movements in all 50 states for reforms to usher in a new era of justice in America.

 

Warden finally appointed to Montgomery Women’s Facility

After almost 2 years of being ran by a tyrannical Captain, The Alabama Department of Corrections has announced the appointment of a new warden at the Montgomery Women’s Facility.

Adrienne Givens, the new Warden at Montgomery Women's Facility
Adrienne Givens, the new Warden at Montgomery Women’s Facility. Photo Credit WSFA 12 News

Adrienne Givens has been appointed to the warden position of the facility, located behind Kilby men’s prison, out of sight from the public and very much out of mind.

 

According to the ADOC, Givens began her career with ADOC in 1993 as a correctional officer at Limestone Correctional Facility in Harvest.

During her time with ADOC, Givens rose through the ranks earning promotions to sergeant, lieutenant, captain and then to warden in 2016.

Deputy Commissioner for Women’s Services Wendy Williams said, “Warden Givens is a proven leader and her many years of experience and training has prepared her to oversee the daily operations of the work release center,”, “I know she will bring to the position the highest level of leadership and professionalism expected of her.”

Prior to this appointment, Givens was serving as assistant warden at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka.

The Montgomery Women’s Facility warehouses approximately 300 inmates in a metal building with no air conditioning. Custody levels range from Medium, down to the lowest, which when obtained enables inmates to be able to go to work. Once working, ADOC charges them daily for the van rides to and from their place of work, it charges for having their uniform and bedding cleaned in the facilities laundry, and they take approximately 40% of any pay check of course, fines and restitution are also deducted.

Montgomery Women’s Facility and is one of Alabama’s three facilities that hold women. ADOC’s sugarcoated description of the facility reads: Inmates who are nearing the end of their sentence, or parole date, can prepare for their transition back into the community by obtaining paid employment before their release.

Most inmates work menial jobs and earn no more than a couple of dollars per day.

The Alabama Department of Corrections is in the midst of an ongoing staffing crisis, with a critical shortage of corrections officers with an overall staffing level of around 53 percent, in one of the most neglected and over crowded and therefore most dangerous prison systems in the entire United States.

It is widely accepted that women commit crimes for very different reasons than men do. In the Alabama prison system, male inmates outnumber women inmates by a ratio of approximately 12-1 and it is statistically accurate to say that women are far less likely to re-offend upon release, even the so called women violent offenders.

It would therefore be prudent for ADOC and The Alabama board of Pardons and Paroles to work together to hasten the release of these women that have already served substantial sentences of incarceration, especially those women that have an unblemished institutional record, that have stayed drug free and turned themselves around with very little if any rehabilitative instruction from ADOC and that deserve a second chance of leading a productive life without any increased risk to the public.

This reduction in female inmates would greatly help in alleviating some of the pressure on an over burdened, abusive, politicised and dangerous system that is being investigated state wide by the Department of Justice and subject to several ongoing lawsuits by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, the Equal Justice Initiative amongst others.

Several inmates that we’ve spoken to have expressed disbelief at the appointment of Warden Givens, Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

 

Unreliable Convictions

Article originally published here
Beniah Dandridge Exonerated and Released After 20 Years Wrongly Imprisoned in Alabama
Beniah Dandridge Exonerated and Released After 20 Years Wrongly Imprisoned in Alabama

There are more innocent people in our jails and prisons today than ever before. While the rate of exonerations has been increasingly dramatically for several years, and a record 149 people were exonerated in 2015, experts observe that, “ by any reasonable accounting, there are tens of thousands of false convictions each year across the country, and many more that have accumulated over the decades.”

Since 1989, 337 people have been exonerated through DNA evidence, revealing a system replete with defects that have led to tens of thousands of wrongful convictions. Leading causes of wrongful convictions include mistaken eyewitness identifications, false or misleading forensic science, false confessions, and jailhouse informants. Perjury or false accusations have contributed to more than half of wrongful convictions, and nearly half involve misconduct by government officials.

Exonerations continue to expose as junk science a number of forensic techniques—such as hair microscopy, bite mark comparisons, firearm tool mark analysis, and shoe print comparisons—that have never been scientifically evaluated or validated. Negligent or corrupt forensic laboratories have been exposed for improperly conducting tests, inaccurately conveying results in trial testimony, and fabricating results. In 2015, EJI won the exoneration and release of Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 30 years on Alabama’s death row after being wrongfully convicted of capital murder based on a faulty bullet match, and Beniah Dandridge, who spent 20 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted based on a faulty fingerprint match.

The indigent defense crisis undermines the reliability of convictions; overworked, underfunded defense lawyers lack the resources to vigorously test the prosecution’s evidence at trial. Children and people with mental disabilities are especially vulnerable. EJI won the release of Diane Tucker, an intellectually disabled woman wrongfully convicted of murdering an infant, after obtaining medical evidence that proved the baby never existed. Jurisdictions do not uniformly preserve evidence or provide access to forensic testing that could prove an incarcerated person’s innocence, and even when incarcerated people manage to obtain evidence that proves innocence, prosecutors and law enforcement often refuse to re-examine the evidence or re-open the case. Some prosecutors have formed Conviction Integrity Units to prevent, identify, and correct false convictions, but only 24 of these units existed in 2015, and of those, half have not secured a single exoneration.