The Prison Policy Initiative identifies more than 30 states, including Texas and Michigan, that it says are driving a “gender divide” in imprisonment.
States have made progress over the last 10 years in reducing their prison populations, but as men’s incarceration rates are falling, women’s incarceration rates hover near record highs, reports the Prison Policy Initiative. The advocacy group identifies more than 30 states driving this national “gender divide.” Sixty-two percent of women, are separated from minor children when they are put behind bars. “Few people know what’s happening in their own states,” says Wendy Sawyer, author of “The Gender Divide: Tracking Women’s State Prison Growth.”
Texas has reduced its men’s prison population by 6,000, while backfilling its prisons with 1,100 more women, the group says. Michigan’s female prison population grew 30 percent from 2009 to 2015, while the number of men in Michigan prisons fell by 8 percent. Six other states have seen men’s prison populations decline as women’s inmate populations have climbed. The report includes more than 100 state-specific graphs tracking 40 years of women’s prison growth. It discusses the causes of women’s mass incarceration, including the war on drugs, harsh sentencing for violent offenses, and the growing frequency of women serving jail time. Women in prison are uniquely burdened by mental health problems and trauma. Sawyer contends that most prisons, which were designed for men, “make those problems worse.” The appropriate response, she says, “is not to build better prisons – it’s to ensure women are included in reforms that move people away from prisons.”