Study Finds Minor Offenses Land Black Women in Jail at Higher Rate

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
An alarming rate of Black and Latino mothers are being jailed for low-level crimes all over the U.S.

According to a new study, Women in jail are the fastest growing correctional population in the country -- far outpacing men being jailed.

The Vera Institute of Justice and the Safety and Challenge program conducted a study to find out why women are being jailed at alarming rates -- a dramatic shift, they say, from the 1970s where jailed women were fewer than 8,000 compared to 2014 where jailed women totaled closer to 110,000 across the U.S.

The study found Black women make up 44% of the women in jail compared to their white and Latina counterparts who account for 36% and 15% respectively.

In the report they discover jailed women are “overwhelmingly poor and low-income, survivors of violence and trauma, and have high rates of physical and mental illness and substance use.”

Even more deafening, nearly 80% of all these women are mothers to dependent children where they act as the primary caregivers.

Low-level and non-violent offenses drive these women into jails at staggering rates. Failure to appear in court, failing a drug test, drug offenses or failing to meet with a probation or parole officer are a few of the main reasons women are incarcerated.

The study argues that by the time these women land behind bars, they have experienced a wealth of traumas that vary from sexual violence, domestic violence or pervasive abuse from a caregiver.

While these statistics are undoubtedly overwhelming, the researchers do put a spotlight on incarceration of women and demonstrates that it is as equally important (and possibly more detrimental) to society than men in jail.

They suggest that local lawmakers start to rethink punishable crimes for women that could result in consequences other than jail time served away from their family and children.

To echo the voice of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, “we know that when we incarcerate a woman we often are truly incarcerating a family, in terms of the far-reaching effect on her children, her community, and her entire family network.” 

WANT MORE FROM ESSENCE? Subscribe to our daily newsletter for the latest in hair, beauty, style and celebrity news.

Read More
Filed under: News