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  • Jada Ojii

Global Female Incarceration Issue

When we think of the growing number of incarcerated people, we also tend to think about those who are at a disadvantage in our justice system. Filmmaker Ava DuVerny showed this with her award-winning 2016 social justice documentary, “13th.”

It explained just how the 13th amendment called for an end to slavery in the United States, but with a caveat: “...except as a punishment for a crime…”

This condition allowed for an abuse of power, in which African-American men in particular were charged with low-level crimes such as loitering, and sent to prison to work for low wages or nothing at all.

The War on Drugs that was birthed from the Nixon/Reagan Era caused drug abusers, many who needed treatment, to be criminalized instead. Not only did this cause families to tear apart, but it also contributed to the overall incarceration statistics in America, which was growing steadily.

According to the HuffPost, mothers are more likely than fathers to live with their children prior to incarceration. This meant that many children were left without their primary caregivers once women were sentenced for drug usage. Currently, over 61% of women in American prisons are there for nonviolent crimes.

The effects of female incarceration aren’t always acknowledged by the media, but in recent decades, the incarceration of women has been on an unfortunate incline across the globe, making it hard to ignore.

International Increase

An analysis in the World Prison Brief found that since 2000, there’s been a 53% increase in the incarceration of women and girls, which “cannot be explained in terms of population growth.”

The report also states that female incarceration has increased across all continents, with North America, South America and Asia experiencing a rise that is 3-5 times the countries’ general population increase.

Compared to men, women are the minority in the prison population, but they have experienced a higher increase over time. “Nationwide, women’s state prison populations grew 834% over nearly 40 years — more than double the pace of the growth among men,” according to Prison Policy.

Women in prison are also paid lower wages than men, which in turn makes it harder for them to make bail, receive/make phone calls, buy necessary items like tampons and pads from the commissary, etc.

Prisons are for reformation, at least that is the goal. But in order for reformation to occur, we also need to make sure that we are being fair in offering inmates help and guidance. For more information of female incarceration and inequalities in prison, look out for legislation and non-profits designated for tackling this issue head-on.

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