The authors indicated that the study had to put together data scattered across incompatible government reports and surveys to come up with even the most basic questions. “Our analysis shows that ending mass incarceration will require crafting policy changes that focus on jails, where nearly half of incarcerated women are held,” Kajstura added.
Between 1970 and 2015, incarcerated women became the fastest-growing correctional population in the country, increasing fourteenfold, according to a 2016 study by the Vera Institute of Justice. The number of women behind bars was 8,000 in 1970, but it increased to nearly 110,000 in 2014.
And as a mother of three found out in El Paso County, Colorado, the prison system will override a judge’s discretion to keep you away from your newborn over a $55 pretrial court fee you cannot afford to pay. This study points out that of the women under “control” of the corrections system, 75 percent are on probation. This system is also highly problematic for women who have children and/or are caregivers
Three out of four women under control of the correctional systems are on probation. Probation is often billed as an alternative to incarceration, but instead it is frequently set with unrealistic conditions that undermine its goal of keeping people from being locked up. For example, probation often comes with steep fees, which, like bail, women are in the worst position to afford. Failing to pay these probation fees is often a violation of probation. Childcare duties further complicate probation requirements that might require meetings with probation officers, with no extra money to spend on babysitters or reliable fast transportation across town. All of these issues make women particularly vulnerable to being incarcerated not because they commit crimes, but because they ran afoul of one of the burdensome obligations of their probation supervision.
You can look at the breakdown in this handy graphic provided by the Prison Policy Initiative and the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice.