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.
March 11, 2014 (Digital Journal)
Women in Prison: No longer hopeless
Cells in jails and prisons around the United States are being filled by women at an alarming rate.
Drugs. Crime. Children. Shame.
A prison sentence is different for a woman than it is for a man.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Approximately 2.2 million people are behind bars in the nation’s jails and prisons, The rate of women being imprisoned is “increasing at nearly double the rate for men.” A third of them are incarcerated for drug offenses, according to a report by The Sentencing Project.
Two-thirds of the women in state prisons are mothers of a minor child.
Trish Parker was one of these women. She has served time both in a federal prison and local jails and come out, never to return. Her story is remarkable. A light in a dark world, she shows other women the way out of the past.
March 7, 2014 (St. Louis American)
My Sister’s Keeper
In all the hoopla surrounding President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, overlooked is that fact that our young girls also need to be targeted for special attention. Sure, they outpace Black males in college attendance and, in many instances, in the workplace. Still, that does not mean they do not also need special attention and encouragement.
Nothing illustrates this better than events of the past week. Sandwiched between President Obama’s White House announcement of his special effort to help Black males and jubilation over Lupita Nyong’o winning an Oscar for best supporting actress in “12 years a Slave” was news out of Florida that Marissa Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a “warning shot” in the direction of her estranged and abusive husband, will be retried and could face 60 years in prison instead of the original 20.
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey, the same prosecutor whose office failed to win murder convictions against George Zimmerman in connection with the death of Trayvon Martin and, more recently, against Michael Dunn for the death of Jordan Davis, announced that instead of the 20 years originally given to Alexander, she will seek to triple that by requesting that her three 20-year terms be served consecutively rather than concurrently.
March 4, 2014 (Philadelphia City Paper)
Artist reflects on nearly 40 years of painting women serving life sentences
Walk around Northern Liberties long enough and you’ll encounter a weathered tile mural embedded in the side of Kaplan’s Bakery, at 3rd and Poplar. The woman that stares back with aching eyes is not a local hero or someone who died tragically. She’s an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Cambridge Springs serving life without parole.
The carefully painted text accompanying the portrait tells her story:
“Cyd Charisse Berger has been in prison in Pennsylvania since 1980. She is sentenced to life without parole although she did not commit a murder. Previously, she tried to escape from him, but he stalked and beat her until she returned. Just before he killed the victim, he practiced on Cyd Berger. She helped her abuser flee and reported him to the police. Cyd Berger is asking the governor to pardon her sentence and needs support. Her abuser was the murderer.”
In West Philadelphia, at 44th and Locust, a mural of Rose Dinkins, another woman serving life without parole, offers a more concise statement: “I believe that my life is worth saving because of the person I am today."
These two tile murals are the work of Mary DeWitt, a local artist who has been visiting seven women serving life without parole in Pennsylvania since the late ‘80s, all while painting their portraits and recording their thoughts.
“I see what people don’t have access to, and I have to bring visibility to it or I’m a real asshole,” says DeWitt.
February 28, 2014 (Michigan Live)
An incarcerated mother laments her children
Tinesha Crawford-Wilson is s serving the 14th year of a 17- to 22 1/2-year sentence for killing a fellow drug dealer in November 1999.
“I never wanted this to happen. I won’t lie. I blame myself,” said Crawford-Wilson, whose time in prison has given her insights she wishes she had while free. She expresses regret, especially when it comes to her son Wilson, who is serving 16 to 30 years in prison, and two younger, teenage children.
“He didn’t have anything. He didn’t have anyone. And it breaks my heart that’s where he’s at. And the cycle repeats itself.”
More than 1.7 million children, about 2 percent of the population, have a parent in a state or federal correctional facility.
Of the growing number of women in U.S. prisons, 62 percent of them have children younger than 18, according to a report from The Sentencing Project, which publishes research and advocates for policy reform in the criminal justice system.
February 21, 2014 (Think Progress )
Missouri Likely To Drop Its Lifetime Food Stamps Ban For Drug Convicts
Missouri lawmakers want to end the state’s lifetime food stamps ban for drug felons, a move that would leave the punitive drug war measure in place in just eight states.
A pair of Kansas City Democrats have introduced bills to ease the ban in both chambers of the Missouri legislature. The House version, proposed by Rep. Bonnaye Mims, would require ex-convicts to enter drug treatment programs in order to be readmitted to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rolls. The Republican in charge of the key House committee that will handle the proposal says there is enough support for the idea on his side of the aisle that it can pass, but he intends to swap Mims’ bill out for one of his own that would require drug felons to pass a drug test before have their eligibility restored.
The toll of the state’s ban can be seen in individual residents’ stories. “I can go buy a firearm but I can’t get assistance to buy a sandwich,” Kansas City, MO resident Johnny Waller Jr. told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Waller was convicted of a drug felony at age 18 and served five years in a Nebraska prison for selling marijuana, but when he left his job decades after leaving prison in order to care for a cancer-stricken son he was still ineligible for food aid. “When I needed some assistance, none was available for something I did when I was 18,” Waller said.