Women's Reentry Initiative
There are 200,000 women in prison and jail in the United States and more than 1 million under criminal justice supervision. This phenomenon has raised a variety of questions about changes in female offending and the criminal justice system’s response to female returning citizens. Females traditionally have represented a small proportion of the total adult and juvenile offender populations (5 to 10 percent), but their presence in the nation’s correctional population has been expanding at a rate that far exceeds that of their male counterparts. Between 1986 and 1999, there has been an 888% increase in the number of poor, uneducated women imprisoned for non-violent drug crimes. The cycle of repeatedly imprisoning traumatized, drug addicted women for non-violent crimes has left more than 1.7 million children as collateral damage. In response to this overwhelming growth, many states have created reentry coordinators and have started focusing on gender-responsive reentry strategies to address the increase in women’s incarceration and the impact on children and families.
In Washington, D.C., approximately 2,500 women are processed through the D.C. Department of Corrections each year, making up 8-10 percent of the total D.C. Jail population. “The majority of the females in the local jail have a length of stay of eight days to one month, a short timeframe in which to impact their circumstances. This abbreviated window requires an immediate and focused reentry effort as soon as a female enters the facility”. Furthermore, a brief review of literature on re-entry indicates several best practices in the field and common themes identify that transition planning must begin during the incarceration period with some purporting the beginning of such planning at the moment of intake to the facility. Data also demonstrates that services provided during incarceration are most effective when they are followed-up with programs in the community with most experts agreeing that re-entry must be holistic, addressing such needs as transportation; clothing, food, and amenities; financial resources; documentation; housing; employment and education; health care; and support systems. In fact, there is a national effort among prison institutions and community-based corrections programs to provide services illustrating these philosophies. Reentry is quickly becoming a significant community issue.
Read our project highlights here.