Prison Violence: Causes, Consequences and Solutions (Solving Social Problems)

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In carrying out its charge to assess the available evidence, and cognizant of this uncertainty, the committee concludes that, despite a profound change in penal policy in the U. Race is a theme that runs through many of the chapters of this report. Racial disparities in incarceration have been observed since the relevant data were first available in the nineteenth century. Incarceration rates escalated rapidly for African Americans to levels six and seven times higher than those of whites, and reached extraordinary levels among young African American men with little schooling.

Estimates indicate that by , one-third of all African American male high school dropouts under age Much of the significance of the social and economic consequences of incarceration is rooted in the high absolute level of incarceration for minority groups and in the large racial and ethnic disparities in incarceration rates.

Research on the spatial distribution of incarceration indicates that prisoners are overwhelmingly drawn from poor minority neighborhoods that also suffer from an array of other socioeconomic disadvantages. In the era of high incarceration rates, prison admission and return became commonplace in minority neighborhoods with high levels of crime, poverty, family instability, poor health, and residential segregation see Chapter Large racial disparities in incarceration focused any negative effects of incarceration disproportionately on African Americans, the poor in particular, and transformed their collective relationship to the state.

As a consequence, the effects of harsh penal policies in the past 40 years have fallen most heavily on blacks and Hispanics, especially the poorest. The findings and conclusions presented here do not easily lend themselves to a simple calculation of costs and benefits. The policies that produced very high rates of incarceration grew out of a historical period of rapid change and social conflict. By greatly expanding the use of penal confinement, the policies charted a new direction for the American criminal justice system.

No other Western democracy went so far down this path. Through the s and s, crime rates fell significantly, but the evidence indicates it is unlikely that the rise in incarceration rates played a powerful role in this trend. Against weak evidence for large benefits, there is also the chance of significant social costs for individuals who are incarcerated, their families, and communities. The strong correlation of incarceration with unemployment, poverty, family disruption, poor health and drug addiction is very clear.

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Causality is harder to disentangle, but experiments and statistical adjustment point to the real possibility of negative social effects. These correlations and negative effects are concentrated almost entirely in poor, especially poor minority, communities. For policy and public life, the size of the effects of incarceration may be less important than the overwhelming evidence of the correlation between very high levels of incarceration, race, poverty, and the myriad of accompanying social problems.

The committee struggled with the meaning of these conclusions. Across the many perspectives and specializations represented by our members, we agreed that basic questions of justice cannot be answered by science alone, particularly in this context where the problem is complex, many different kinds of evidence—quantitative and qualitative—are relevant, and scientific certainty was often elusive. The decision to deprive another human being of his or her liberty is, at root, anchored in beliefs about the just relationship between the individual and society and the role of criminal sanctions in preserving the social compact.

Thus, good justice policy is necessarily based on a combination of empirical research and explicit normative commitments. Normative principles have deep roots in jurisprudence and theories of governance and are needed to supplement empirical evidence to guide future policy and research.

To frame the policy implications of the evidence presented in this report, we return to the normative principles first presented in Chapter 1 and elaborated in Chapter The committee noted that, over the past 40 years, principles that would restrain the use of prison as a response to crime were given less weight in public discourse than the crime control mission for punishment.

We have solutions to crime. We just need to scale them | World Economic Forum

The principle of proportionality—that the sanction imposed for violation of the criminal law should be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime—is challenged by harsh sentences for minor offenses. The principle of parsimony—that the criminal sanction imposed for an offense should be sufficient but not greater than the punishment necessary to achieve sentencing goals—is inconsistent with overly long sentences. Finally, the principle of social justice, as applied to prisons—that prisons should promote, not diminish, a fair distribution of resources, rights, and opportunities—is strained when incarceration becomes pervasive in poor and minority communities.

In weighing the scientific evidence on the causes and consequences of the high rates of incarceration in the United States, and then considering the implications of that evidence for public policy, the committee found it instructive to refer to the principles that govern the use of imprisonment for crime control and define the proper role of prison in a democratic society.

The imposition of the criminal sanction is considered a validation of the social compact. The prevention and control of crime is also recognized as a long-established purpose of the criminal justice system. As is documented in Chapter 12 , striking the appropriate balance between these competing values lies at the heart of the policy discourse in a democracy. Yet, Chapter 12 also shows that recent policy discussions have retreated from the principles that constrain the power of the state to punish, respect the human dignity of persons incarcerated, and are troubled by the intimate connection between prisons, racial inequality and poverty.

The growth of the prison population can be traced to policies expanding the use of imprisonment for felony convictions, imposing longer sentences on those committed to prison, and intensifying punishment for the sale and use of drugs. Proponents of those policies argued that more prison and longer sentences would reduce crime.

The committee concluded that research indicates that the large increase in incarceration rates has not clearly yielded sizable reductions in crime. Furthermore, while the research does not clearly indicate the magnitude of the impact of incarceration on crime, there is strong evidence that increasing long sentences has promoted neither deterrence nor incapacitation.

The cost of expanding the penal system has been substantial. The financial costs are borne by taxpayers, who provide funding for local jails, state and federal prisons, and the operations of the larger criminal justice apparatus associated with institutions of incarceration. The opportunity cost is also considerable. Spending on prisons diverts resources from more effective public safety strategies, services for crime victims, or programs designed to help achieve effective reintegration of people who have been released from prisons. The burden of incarceration also falls on the millions of incarcerated individuals and, the evidence suggests, their families and neighborhoods.

More broadly, as a consequence of the unprecedented rise in incarceration rates, the larger society bears the costs of an expanded share of the population that struggles with the stigma and negative effects of the prison experience. To recognize the high cost of incarceration does not deny that, in specific cases, prison sentences are an appropriate societal response to the crimes committed. Nor does this assessment of the costs of prison overlook the fact that, in certain cases, incarceration will prevent crime.

Similarly, incarceration has certainly improved life for some of those sent to prison. Yet the weight of the scientific evidence on the consequences of high rates of incarceration, when viewed in light of the principles of proportionality, parsimony, citizenship, and social justice outlined above, suggests that too many people are in prison in the United States and that, overall, their sentences are too long.

The nation cannot yet accurately estimate the long-term consequences of imprisoning so many of its citizens. However, the current evidence is troubling and leads to our overarching policy recommendation. In particular, they should reexamine policies regarding mandatory minimum sentences and long sentences. Policy makers should also take steps to improve the experience of incarcerated men and women and reduce unnecessary harm to their families and their communities.

Based on our analysis of the evidence, we urge policy makers at the state and national levels to reconsider policies in three distinct domains: 1 sentencing policy, 2 prison policy, and 3 social policy.

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Doing so will require political will. Just as the expansion of the penal system was driven by changes in policy, it must be reversed through policy choices. Most fundamentally, reversing course will require state and federal policy makers to significantly reform sentencing policy. More specifically, as discussed below, they should consider reforms to the current regime of long sentences, mandatory minimum sentences, and the overall enforcement strategies regarding drug laws.

In addition, reversing course will require changes in the use of discretion available under current laws to police, prosecutors, parole decision makers, community corrections officials, and other actors in the criminal justice system. The development of new penal policies will depend, in turn, on a new public consensus that current policies have been, on balance, more harmful than effective and are inconsistent with U. Making this case to the public will require determined political leadership.

Before turning to our suggestions in the three policy domains, we note that, although our overarching recommendation involves issues of sentencing and prison policy, a broader menu of alternatives is necessarily implicated when reforming sentencing policies to reduce incarceration rates. To support the recommended change in policy direction, jurisdictions would likely have to review a range of allied programs, such as community-based alternatives to incarceration, probation and parole, prisoner reentry,.

Correctional programs, such as cognitive-behavioral therapies aimed at changing criminal behavior, also are likely to be an important part of the needed change in direction MacKenzie, We return to this issue in our discussion of research needs below. The evidence we reviewed does not provide a roadmap for comprehensive sentencing reform.

Just as research does not indicate precisely whether a sentence for a specific crime is too short or too long, it does not specify an optimal sentence reduction. Other values may also shape sentencing policy. For example, many sentencing reforms of recent years were intended to reduce racial disparities, and policy makers must be careful not to reverse any resulting gains in sentence proportionality.

More important, and consistent with our emphasis on the importance of values and the need for political leadership, we recognize that the details of strategies for reducing incarceration levels will depend on a complex interplay between the public and policy makers. However, the evidence does identify some types of policies that drove the prison buildup; imposed sizable social, financial, and human costs; failed to produce commensurate public safety benefits; and were inconsistent with the normative principles articulated above. Three dimensions of sentencing policy are particularly appropriate for reexamination: long sentences, mandatory minimum sentences, and enforcement of drug laws.

The case for reducing long sentences is compelling. As this report has documented see Chapters 2 and 3 , the steady growth in incarceration rates has been significantly fuelled by longer prison sentences. A variety of statutory enactments have driven these results, including laws imposing truth-in-sentencing, life without parole, and three strikes enhancements. These policy shifts significantly increased the average time served for a felony conviction. Yet, as reviewed in this report, research shows that long sentences have little marginal effect on crime reduction through either deterrence or incapacitation.

The deterrent value of long sentences is minimal, as the decision to commit a crime is more likely influenced by the certainty and swiftness of punishment than by the severity of the criminal sanction. Research on criminal careers shows that recidivism rates decline markedly with age.

We have solutions to crime. We just need to scale them

Prisoners serving long sentences necessarily age as they serve their time and their risk of re-offending declines over time. Accordingly, unless sentencing judges can specifically target very high-rate or extremely dangerous offenders, imposing long prison sentences is an inefficient way to prevent crime.

Finally, the evidence is clear that long prison sentences incur substantial costs to state and federal budgets and will likely add significant future costs as the prison population ages. Efforts to reduce incarceration rates by reducing long sentences could usefully follow the initiatives undertaken by the federal government and by many states.

Congress has curtailed the length of the sentence for crack cocaine offenses, and the U. Sentencing Commission has retroactively applied sentencing guideline changes for current prisoners U. Sentencing Commission, a. Between and , 29 states shortened sentences with the aim of reducing prison populations. Some, including Michigan and Mississippi, modified truth-in-sentencing laws to accelerate parole eligibility. California, Indiana, and South Carolina scaled back their three strikes enhancements.

Although the precise impact of these reforms on average sentence length has yet to be determined, it is reasonable to assume that they have contributed to the overall decline in incarceration rates among the states Vera Institute of Justice, If the policy reforms designed to reduce long prison sentences were prospective and applied only to new convictions, then prison populations would decline only slowly.

More immediate effects could be obtained by re-examining and reforming the policies governing release from prison. For example, the state and federal governments could reconsider policies that abolished or restricted discretionary parole release, or curtailed the use of work release, educational release and half-way houses. Finally, policy makers could implement reforms that would reduce the flow of individuals back to prison because their parole or probation has been revoked for technical violations of the conditions of their release.

States that have pursued this reform strategy have substantially reduced the flow of people returning to prison. Between and , 13 states Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia authorized graduated responses for parole violations, providing front-line officers with a continuum of community-based sanctions to keep more parolees in the community while still maintaining accountability for violations Pew Charitable Trusts, These and other reforms offer a broad menu of policy options that together could significantly reduce the average length of stay in U.

They are best combined with a more fundamental re-examination of overall sentence length under state and federal laws. As was noted in Chapter 2 , the use of longer prison terms has been a critical driver of high rates of incarceration. Cutting back the maximum sentence length for specified offenses would not yield savings in prison time until many years from now, but such a policy reform would be consistent with the normative values outlined in this report and would pose little risk to public safety.

Between and , all 50 states and the U. Congress reduced the discretion available to sentencing judges by passing laws requiring imprisonment for a wide variety of offenses. Prior to these enactments, judges could impose noncustodial sanctions such as probation, restitution, or community service.

As a result of these new mandatory minimum penalties, custodial sentences have increasingly been imposed for minor offenses. Mandatory minimum sentences were also enacted for drug offenses, murder, aggravated rape, felonies involving firearms and felonies committed by individuals with prior felony convictions. Over the decades covered by this report, mandatory minimums were the most frequently enacted sentencing law change in the U. The stated reason for these sentencing enactments was crime prevention.

Policy makers asserted that requiring prison sentences for designated offenses would deter others from committing crimes. Yet the weight of evidence reviewed in this report is strong that such enactments have few, if any, deterrent effects. As is discussed in Chapter 5 , three reports of panels convened by the National Research Council have reviewed the research literature on the deterrent effect of such laws and have concluded that the evidence is insufficient to justify the conclusion that these harsher punishments yield measurable public safety benefits.

At the same time, there is substantial evidence in the research literature that the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences creates incentives for practitioners—police, prosecutors and judges—to circumvent these penalties. A number of states have undertaken such a review.


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Statutory reform is not required to reach this result; changes in prosecutorial policy could also change the dynamics of sentencing. In recent instructions to U. The principles of proportionality and parsimony also call for a reexamination of penal policies mandating imprisonment for minor offenses. Allowing judges to exercise greater discretion in the imposition of a criminal sentence recognizes that any term of imprisonment is a severe sanction that must be imposed deliberately with clear reference to the facts of specific cases.

The research also indicates that these reforms would reduce the practice of circumventing mandatory penalties. The law enforcement strategy known as the war on drugs has been a significant driver of the increase in U. Over the decades of the prison buildup, the incarceration rate for drug offenses increased tenfold—twice the rate for other crimes. Prison admissions for drug offenses grew rapidly, increasing from about 10, state prison commitments for drugs in , to about , admissions by , and peaking at , admissions in see Chapter 5. Yet, as reported in a report of the National Research Council, these dramatic increases.

The evidence of high costs—particularly the high costs of incarceration—and of the apparently low effectiveness of the current drug enforcement strategy should compel a fresh look at alternatives. Furthermore, the disparate impact of the war on drugs on communities of color and the high rates of incarceration for drug offenses among African Americans and Hispanics make a reduction in drug-related incarceration an urgent priority.

This reassessment should recognize that abuse of illegal drugs is both a health policy and a justice policy issue. Alternatives that rely more on health care measures might well reduce the social and economic costs of imprisonment and improve public health. A fresh look at drug policy should also confront the realities of current enforcement policies. Over the period of U. A more effective response that relied less on arrests would also reduce the reliance on prisons.

One promising approach is the law enforcement intervention piloted in High Point, North Carolina. Reflecting principles of focused deterrence, this approach, since replicated widely across the U. In addition to high levels of arrests, sentencing for drug offenses has also become more punitive. As mentioned above, reforms to limit mandatory minimum sentences and long sentences for drug offenses would reduce incarceration rates.

Recent reductions in incarceration resulting from the reform of U. Other strategies might be even more effective in addressing the underlying issue of drug use within the contours of the criminal justice system. A number of states and the federal government have taken steps to this end. For example, the development of drug treatment courts and prosecutorial diversion programs offer innovative possibilities that could reduce both drug use and incarceration rates. Recent innovative probation reforms, such as project HOPE Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement , which mixes swift and certain sanctions with a regime of drug testing, represent promising efforts to treat problems of drug abuse without relying extensively on incarceration.

A full assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of these and other programmatic innovations is beyond the scope of this report. Although the above measures do not exhaust the options for sentencing reform, we view reduced use of long sentences, review of mandatory minimum sentences, and a revised approach to drug law enforcement as three key main ways in which incarceration could be significantly reduced. Recent reform efforts also have addressed other phases of correctional supervision, notably community corrections.

As was mentioned above, a shift in sentencing policy away from reliance on incarceration would necessarily require closer examination of the effectiveness of alternatives to incarceration, including the effectiveness of parole and probation supervision. Similarly, any well-conceived plan for reducing prison populations should consider the effectiveness of short-term and longer-term assistance to parolees. A National Research Council report on parole policies includes the recommendation that both in-prison and postrelease parole programs be redirected to providing a variety of supports to parolees and others released from prison at the time of release and suggests that no one should leave prison without an immediately available support program and a plan for life postrelease National Research Council, , p.

In parallel with our general recommendation to reduce the level of incarceration, we urge reduction of the potentially harmful effects of incarceration through reaffirmation of the principle of citizenship and recognition of the public character of penal institutions. In our view, respect for citizenship demands that punishment by incarceration not be so severe, or have such lasting negative consequences, that the person punished is forever excluded from full participation in mainstream society. Stated affirmatively, the principle of citizenship requires that prisons. The principle of citizenship suggests a rigorous review of the conditions of confinement and of the legal disabilities and restrictions imposed on those who have been incarcerated.

In particular, policies and practices that result in long periods of administrative segregation from the general population, deprivation of meaningful human contact, overcrowding, and unnecessarily high levels of custody all require rigorous review. Prison authorities and legislatures should consider reestablishing the commitment to programming and rehabilitation that was deemphasized during the period of rising incarceration.

The principle of citizenship also demands a broad review of the penalties and restrictions faced by the formerly incarcerated in their access to the social benefits, rights, and opportunities that might otherwise promote their successful reintegration following release from prison.

Compared with other areas of social policy that require similar expenditures of billions of dollars, prisons in many states are subject to relatively little oversight. Through laws, such as the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the role of courts in reviewing conditions of confinement has been restricted see Chapter 6. Many new prisons were sited in remote areas where they are not readily visible or accessible.

The locations and forbidding design of many prisons stand as metaphors for this reality: prisons are far from the public mind and appear closed to public view. The committee urges policy makers to elevate the public profile and transparency of prisons in recognition of their important role in U. The broad topics of concern might include the quality of life in prisons, public accountability for expenditures, designation of expected in-prison and postrelease outcomes for prisoners, standards for health and mental health care, limits on the use of administrative segregation, and access by researchers see Chapter 6.

Prison conditions and practices can. Policy makers might also consider establishing or reinforcing independent monitoring and oversight of prisons, including independent commissions of the sort that operate in other Western nations. If incarceration rates are reduced, many people who would have been incarcerated will continue residing in their communities, often under community supervision.

These are largely poor men and women with very low levels of schooling and poor employment histories, many of whom also have histories of substance abuse and mental illness. Their criminal responsibility is real, but embedded in a context of social and economic disadvantage. The close connections between crime, incarceration, and poverty have implications for reforms aimed at reducing high incarceration rates as well as those aimed at reducing criminal behaviors in the first place. With fewer people in prison, there may be a greater need for social services in the community. It will be necessary to carefully assess available services to determine if there are sufficient quality services in accessible locations to meet the needs of otherwise imprisoned members of the community.

Drug treatment, health care, employment, and housing will face especially strong demand. Sustainably reducing incarceration will depend in part on whether communities can meet the needs of those who would otherwise be locked up. If large numbers of intensely disadvantaged prime-age men and women are resituated in poor communities without appropriate social supports, the effects could be broadly harmful and could discredit decisions to reduce the use of incarceration. Here, the historical example of the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill offers a cautionary example.

Deinstitutionalization, gradually unfolding through the s and s, was originally conceived to be buttressed by an array of community-based mental health services. Instead, state mental hospitals were shuttered, and policy makers were reluctant to. An annotated bibliography of writings on independent prison oversight is provided by Deitch Homelessness and other hardships among the mentally ill resulted from the deficit of treatment and other services.

Significant reductions in prison population without community planning risks similar problems.


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  • Responsibly reducing incarceration will require a parallel expansion of social services. Policy research on released prisoners emphasizes the importance of employment, housing, and health services e. Employment programs provide a variety of services, from job readiness training to subsidized work see Chapter 8. Although evaluation research provides uneven evidence that labor market programs can boost employment and reduce recidivism, such programs often are intrinsically valuable when they provide income support and structure the time of program clients. There have been few evaluations of subsidized housing programs.

    Evaluation research also indicates that recidivism can be significantly reduced when social opportunity programs, such as those providing employment, are combined with programs that address criminogenic behaviors see MacKenzie, , The need for health services for released prisoners, including drug and mental health treatment, is similarly serious. Improving the health of this and other disadvantaged populations will require continuity of health care from custody to community. Comprehensive screening, diagnosis, and treatment—particularly for infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C virus, and sexually transmitted diseases and for mental illness and substance use disorders—would address broader public health and improve health for those at risk of incarceration.

    Improving health insurance coverage and medical care is especially important given the evidence on the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment see Chapter 7. As a starting point, policymakers and future researchers should explore the scope, impact, and potential solutions to these issues:. In some states, the escalating incarceration of women now drives prison growth, while in other states, it dampens the effect of prison reforms. Ignoring the problem holds back progress, while further analysis of gender effects is likely to yield new ideas that can accelerate the reduction of prison populations.

    Research consistently shows that incarcerated women face different problems than men — and prisons often make those problems worse. While not a comprehensive list, some of the major issues facing incarcerated women include:. The mass incarceration of women is harmful, wasteful, and counterproductive; that much is clear.

    As the number of women in prisons and jails continues to rise in many states — even as the number of men falls — understanding this dramatic growth becomes more urgent. What policies fuel continued growth today? What part does jail growth play? Where is change needed most now, and what kinds of changes will help? This report and the state data it provides lay the groundwork for states to engage these critical questions as they take deliberate and decisive action to reverse prison growth. Because, as this report demonstrates, all states arrived at the mass incarceration of women by different means and some states are further ahead of others at reversing course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

    As all states begin to examine their own patterns to develop an effective strategy to reduce prison populations, they would benefit from exploring these ten recommendations drawn from the experiences of other states. To be clear, the way to better serve women in prison is not to build better prisons 30 — but to to ensure women are included in reforms that move people away from prisons toward better solutions.

    The most effective changes will reverse the growth of all incarcerated populations, without leaving women behind. This report contains several graphs Figures 1, 2, and 3 with source information that is too extensive to fit on the graphs themselves, so the details are provided here. For each year, we used correctional data to calculate the incarceration rates per , female residents in the U. The correctional data we used is described below. A few notes on the prison data: Wherever possible, the reported December 31 estimates were used, for consistency with later datasets.

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    When no December estimate was given, the January 1 estimate of the following year was used. Also, because estimates are often updated after initial publication, we used data from the more recent available source. For and , the total state and federal prison populations by sex were not reported. However, for and , only one federal prison was reported to hold women and only women in Alderson, West Virginia. For those two years, the federal prison population for women is available, reported as the yearend population of that one prison. Finally, while estimates for most years do not differentiate by status, as of estimates of the population sentenced to greater than 1 year became standard, and we use that population from forward to be consistent with the state-level data used elsewhere in the report.

    We calculated the national incarceration rates for state prisons, federal prisons, and local jails using the numbers above and population estimates from the Census Bureau. Because the state and federal prison data is for the last day of the reported year, we used population estimates for January 1 of the next year for prison incarceration rates. The Census Bureau publishes population estimates as of July 1 of each year back to , and for January 1 for selected years , and to Because it was not immediately clear to us when jails data for the previous years were collected, we used the January 1 estimates for the earlier years.

    This was calculated by finding the percent change from to each year, then adding 1 to find the multiple. Because the national peak population for women in state prisons occurred in , a year earlier than the peak for men, this choice underreports declines for women in some states and nationally. But because the data used in this report is based on state jurisdictional populations with sentences greater than one year, the incarcerated people in these six states who would in other states likely be under the authority of local jails such as those awaiting trial or serving short sentences of less than a year are excluded from this data.

    We calculated the number of women incarcerated for each offense category using these percentages and the estimates reported by the BJS Corrections Statistical Analysis Tool CSAT — Prisoners for yearend jurisdictional population with sentences greater than one year for total state institutions, by sex. To determine how much of the population change over a given period of time was due to each offense category, we divided the change in the population within each category by the total change in the population during that period.

    Jordan Miner facilitated the production of the individual state graphs, and Bob Machuga created the cover. The non-profit non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative was founded in 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. In , men made up Comparing growth of different groups based on percent change can be problematic, of course, because the baseline prison populations used for these calculations are so different for men and women.

    See methodology for data sources. The question of appropriate responses to violence can be even more complicated for female defendants who have are themselves victims of violence, punished for fighting back against their abusers. National Research Council. Travis, B. Western, and S. Redburn, Editors. Washington, D. Gido and L. Dalley, Eds. Becki Ney, Rachelle Ramirez, and Dr. Marylyn Van Dieten, Eds. Ney et al. The most recent government report based on data found that two-thirds of women in federal or state prisons report a history of mental health problems.

    It did not address co-occurring disorders or histories of abuse. See p. Six states — Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont — have combined prison and jail systems, and therefore only report state prison data. Because the data used in this report is based on state jurisdictional populations with sentences greater than one year, most incarcerated people in these six states who would otherwise be under the authority of local jails such as those awaiting trial or serving short sentences of less than a year are excluded from this data.

    The Sentencing Project offers further, detailed analysis of individual state-level sentencing policy changes. In , there were 67, fewer people in state prisons nationwide than in Of those, only were women. For comparison purposes in this state survey, this report uses the national total peak of state prison populations as a consistent reference point. See methodology for explanation. That report uses as an example changes in to the life expectancy of white women with less than a high school education which fell more than 5 years from to , which was likely related to a number of socioeconomic factors that are also associated with criminal justice involvement.

    Disciplinary responses are also more severe for women with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders; see: K. Belenko, Disciplinary responses to misconduct among female prison inmates with mental illness, substance use disorders, and co-occurring disorders Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal , 83 1 , p.

    Transgender Survey. In These Times details the health risks to pregnant and postpartum incarcerated women and their children. And as reported in The Atlantic , women who give birth in prison are usually separated from their babies shortly after delivery, their care transferred to family, friends, or the foster care system. For more information on how parental incarceration affects children, families, and communities, see the Annie E. According to the Sentencing Project , only half of women in prison participate in educational or vocational programming; one in five takes high school or GED classes, and less than one in three participates in a vocational program.

    In , a Gender Responsive Strategies Commission, created to advise the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on correctional strategies specific to women, proposed the construction of additional prison beds to move 4, women deemed suitable for release from state prisons to smaller facilities closer to home — instead of simply releasing them.

    Some diversion programs are unaffordable for poor defendants; as much as possible, program costs for participants should be eliminated, minimized, or deferred. See Shaila Dewan and Andrew W. For a state-by state list of current and past problem-solving court projects, see the National Center for State Courts website.

    For more information, see p.



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