WOMEN IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
The number of women in prison, a third of whom are incarcerated for drug offenses, is increasing at nearly double the rate for men. These women often have significant histories of physical and sexual abuse, high rates of HIV infection, and substance abuse. Large-scale women's imprisonment has resulted in an increasing number of children who suffer from their mother's incarceration and the loss of family ties.
December 9, 2013 (Al Jazeera American)
Welfare ban for ex–drug offenders hurts minority women
When Martha Stewart left prison in 2004 after serving a five-month sentence for conspiracy and obstruction of justice, she issued an emotional plea on behalf of the women she did her time with, many of whom were locked up for non-violent drug offenses. “I beseech you all to think about these women,” Stewart said. “They would be much better served in a true rehabilitation center than in prison where there is no real help, no real programs to rehabilitate, no programs to educate, no way to be prepared for life out there.”
Sadly, thanks to a hastily added provision to the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) also known as the Welfare Reform Act, which aimed to reduce welfare dependence, women with drug convictions are not only unlikely to get the help they need before or during their incarceration, but many of them will also face being barred for life from receiving most forms of public benefits — from cash assistance to food stamps — after they serve their time.
A new report by the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit dedicated to reforming the U.S. criminal justice system, examined the impact of the PRWORA provision, which affects those convicted in state and federal courts of federal drug offenses. Titled A Lifetime of Punishment, the report found that an estimated 180,000 women were being subjected to a lifetime exclusion welfare benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
December 4, 2013 (DesMoinesRegister.com)
Dying woman’s release is first of its kind in Iowa
Iowa’s parole board in the past has granted compassionate releases to inmates suffering from illnesses, board Chairman Jason Carlstrom said Tuesday.
However, Kristina Fetters’ case —she was convicted of first-degree murder as a juvenile now scheduled for release after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling — is the first of its kind in Iowa. Nationwide, such releases remain rare 1½ years after the ruling, an expert said.
The court made life sentences for juveniles illegal in its ruling in Miller v. Alabama in June 2012. In August, the Iowa Supreme Court in State v. Ragland determined that the Miller ruling applies “retroactively” to give young offenders currently serving life sentences a chance at parole.
Iowa currently has 38 young offenders serving life sentences.
Many state courts have not been as progressive as Iowa’s in determining that the Miller ruling applies retroactively, said Ashley Nellis, a senior research analyst with The Sentencing Project. The Washington, D.C., group researches and advocates for reforms to sentencing laws.
“There’s been a lot of resistance across the country to complying with the Miller ruling,” she said. “It’s terrible that it takes terminal cancer to get anyone’s attention when it should really just take the Miller ruling.”
December 3, 2013 (Womensenews.org)
Faith-Based Housing Helps Women Leave Prison
Missy Denard prayed for six years before she rented the first home for New Beginnings in Abilene, Texas, for women who have nowhere to go.
That was in 2011. Since then the two-bedroom house with an attached apartment has been housing up to six women and Denard has acquired another house and an apartment building to rent to approximately 65 more women, all with children.
The female population in prisons in the United States continues to grow at an alarming rate. From 2000 through 2009, the number of women incarcerated in state or federal prisons rose by 21.6 percent, compared to a 15.6 percent increase for men. A total of 205,000 women were in U.S. prisons or jail in 2010, with the families and communities being torn apart as a result, according to a report released earlier this year by The Sentencing Project.
As the need grows, some members of religious communities are creating new ways to respond to women leaving prison, including teaching them that Christ loves and forgives them.
December 2, 2013 (C-Span)
Reforming Prison Sentencing
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, talked about the changing political climate for criminal justice reform on C-Span and why he believes the expanding growth and cost of the U.S. prison system has contributed to an increased desire for reform. He also spoke about the findings of his organization on the rapid growth of life sentencing and the impact of the federal drug ban on welfare families. Watch here.
November 21, 2013 (Opposingviews.com)
More Than 180,000 Women Had SNAP Benefits Cut Under Obscure 1996 Drug War Rule
Those who are eligible for food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“food stamps”) can still collect their benefits if they’ve killed or raped someone, but if they have a drug felony on their record, the government will cut them off.