Never mind a second chance. Our incarcerated women need a first one

Christia Mercer in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_2156 Aug. 18 22.33The United States contains 5% of the world’s women and 33% of its incarcerated women, more per capita, and in absolute terms, than any other country in the world. Though that’s only 7% of the US prisoner population overall, the statistics don’t reflect the uniquely horrible circumstances many incarcerated women faced before their convictions.

They’re girls who were victimized as children, ignored in substandard schools and unprotected by social services. Girls who dropped out of high school, self-medicated with alcohol or illegal drugs and then made mistakes that got them caught up the in the prison industrial complex.

The reality of these women’s struggles was driven home anew in a report, released Wednesday by the Vera Institute of Justice and the Safety and Justice Challenge. It says that women are the fastest-growing demographic in our jails – where people are booked and held prior to conviction – and that this is exacerbating the societal disadvantages they face.

The US does a disservice to its female prisoner population by locking them up without giving them a first chance in life, much less a second one.

A shocking 32% of the women incarcerated in New York were victims of rape before arrest.

More here.