Women and the Criminal Justice System

Women in the criminal justice system face specific challenges and have different needs than men. Because of women’s unique stabilizing and caretaking roles, incarcerating women exacts a devastating toll not only on the women themselves, but also on their children, families and communities. Nearly three-quarters of women in prison are mothers, and many were the primary caregivers for their children prior to incarceration.

Low-income women of color and communities of color are disproportionately affected by incarceration: nearly 65% of women in New York’s prisons are African-American or Latina, most from a handful of poor urban areas across the state.

For the most part, women are incarcerated for crimes related to substance abuse, trauma and lack of economic opportunity. Virtually nowhere is this gross misuse of incarceration more evident than when considering the challenges women in prison faced before they entered the system.

Eighty-percent of women in U.S. prisons suffered severe violence as children, and 75% were abused by an intimate partner during adulthood. An estimated 90% of women in New York’s prisons have experienced sexual or physical violence in their lifetimes. More than 12% are living with HIV and 22% have hepatitis C—rates almost double those of incarcerated men and many times higher than the general public. More than 40% have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness and nearly 9 in 10 report struggling with a substance abuse problem. Half do not have a high school diploma.

Prisons fail to identify and address women’s specific needs and place women at high risk of re-traumatization. Women in prison commonly receive sub-standard reproductive health care, insufficient mental health services, and little aid in maintaining relationships with – and sometimes protecting parental rights to – their children.

Our society has a strong tendency to define incarcerated women solely by their crimes, ignoring the various circumstances that affect their lives and actions. Like all women, if given the right support and opportunity, incarcerated women have the agency, resilience and strength to overcome challenges and lead healthy, meaningful and productive lives.

Applying a gender lens to criminal justice policy and practice is critical to protecting women’s rights, building strong and healthy communities, and ensuring that women are treated fairly and humanely and have access to services in line with their needs. Through prison monitoring, public education, coalition-building, leadership development and policy advocacy the Correctional Association’s Women in Prison Project works to create a criminal justice system that addresses women’s specific needs and that treats people and their families with fairness, dignity and respect.

 

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News | January 9, 2017

CA Applauds Commitment to Raise the Age in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, Laments No Mention of Racism, Violence, and Abuse in NYS Prisons

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Annette Warren-Dickerson, Communications Director, 646-793-9077 adickerson@correctionalassociation.org CA Applauds Commitment to Raise the Age in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, Laments No Mention of Racism, Violence, and Abuse in NYS Prisons (January 9, 2017) New York, NY: The Correctional Association of New York roundly applauds the continued commitment of Governor Andrew Cuomo to raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, ending the prosecution and incarceration of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.Read More

News | September 27, 2016

NYT Editorial: “Bringing Prison Guards to Justice”

The New York Times in this editorial today is saying what we at the CA have been reporting on for decades: without any any transparency and accountability, the abuse of people who are incarcerated will persist and those who are responsible will still act with impunity. Until accountability is the norm and not the exception, the abuse -- and in some cases, loss of life -- will continue.Read More

News | September 22, 2016

Board of the Correctional Association of New York Appoints Carlton S. Mitchell Interim Executive Director

CSM photo

On September 22, 2016, the Board of Directors of the Correctional Association of New York announced the appointment of Carlton S. Mitchell as Interim Executive Director. He will start his duties in September 2016. Read More

News | August 8, 2016

CA Statement on the Apparent Suicide of John MacKenzie

August 8, 2016, New York): The Correctional Association of New York is heartbroken by the apparent suicide of John MacKenzie, and outraged by the ongoing cruelty of the New York State Parole Board. The Parole Board continues to destroy people’s lives by repeatedly denying release to those who have transformed their lives, demonstrated their readiness to return home, and do not pose a risk to society. Despite public outcries and judges’ admonitions, the Board continues to deny parole based on the nature of their original offense -- something that can never change regardless of what they have accomplished or who they are today.Read More

News | April 12, 2016

Lawmakers, Advocates, and Survivors of Solitary Confinement Back Legislation Limiting Use of Isolation in New York’s Prisons and Jails

(April 12, 2016, Albany, NY): The New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) held a press conference with lawmakers and survivors on Tuesday to advocate for legislation that would limit the use of solitary confinement and other forms of isolation in New York’s prisons and jails. The press conference was part of a full day of activities by over 200 people from across the state to draw attention to the torture of solitary confinement and to advocate passage of the Humane Alternatives to Long Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, A. 4401 / S. 2659. Read More

News | March 31, 2016

E.D. Soffiyah Elijah Discusses Cuba Incarceration Models in Guernica Interview

In 2015, CA Executive Director Soffiyah Elijah organized three trips to Cuba, providing travelers an opportunity to observe up close how Cuba's criminal justice system operates in comparison -- and contrast -- to the way that the United States' system prosecutes and incarcerates people. In a recent 2016 issue of Guernica magazine, writer Hyatt Bass, who was a part of one of the CA delegations to Cuba, interviewed Elijah about the distinctions between the two countries when it comes to the concept of punishment.Read More

News | December 22, 2015

CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NY HAILS NEW LAW ENDING SHACKLING OF INCARCERATED WOMEN THROUGOUT ALL STAGES OF PREGNANCY

December 22, 2015, New York): Today, the Correctional Association of New York (CA), a leading opponent of the practice of shackling pregnant women who are incarcerated, roundly applauded Governor Cuomo for signing the 2015 Anti-Shackling Bill. It is considered to be the most progressive such legislation in the nation. The new law fortifies an existing 2009 ban against shackling during labor and delivery, and, most significantly, extends the law to include all stages of pregnancy.Read More

News | December 16, 2015

CA APPLAUDS AGREEMENT WITH NEW YORK STATE ON THE USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN NYS STATE PRISONS

(December 16, 2015, New York, NY): Today, the Correctional Association of New York (CA), the state’s oldest criminal justice reform organization, released the following statement in reaction to the announcement of an agreement with the state of New York resulting from litigation challenging NYDOCCS’ use of solitary confinement:Read More

News | December 8, 2015

CA LAUNCHES NEW VIDEO AS PART OF CAMPAIGN TO END SHACKLING OF PREGNANT WOMEN

It's time for New York to end shackling! As advocates band together to end the barbaric practice of shackling incarcerated pregnant women in New York State, the Women in Prison Project (WIPP) and the Coalition for Women Prisoners are working with allies across the state to urge Governor Cuomo to sign the 2015 Anti-Shackling Bill. Read More

News | October 22, 2015

CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION RELEASES REPORT: “HIV SERVICES FOR WOMEN IN NEW YORK STATE PRISONS”

REV2 CA WIPP WOMEN & HIV COVER HEAD RIBBON

(October 22, 2015, New York, NY)  Today, the Women in Prison Project at the Correctional Association of New York (CA), the state’s oldest criminal justice reform organization, released a report entitled, “HIV Services for Women in New York State Prisons,”    New York has the highest number of HIV-positive incarcerated people and the second-highest number of HIV-positive incarcerated women of all prison systems in the country.  Read More

CA in the Press | January 3, 2017

Letter to the Editor: Alleviating the Pain When a Parent Is in Jail

To the Editor: Re “Serving as a Role Model During a Father’s Absence” (The Neediest Cases, Dec. 21): It’s nice to see young Jaylen benefit from the MentorCHIP program. But children whose parents are incarcerated need regular visits with their parents. Studies show that children’s emotional, scholastic and social adjustment improve when they have regularly scheduled visits to alleviate the pain of losing a parent.Read More

CA in the Press | December 27, 2016

For Thousands in New York’s Prisons, Christmas is Just Another Day in Solitary Confinement

Nicholas Zimmerman will spend Christmas locked in his cell at Clinton Correctional Facility, the men’s state prison 20 miles from the Canadian border. Instead of opening presents with his family, he’ll wake to a breakfast tray slid through a slot in his door. He’ll spend most, if not all, of the day inside his cell.Read More

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CA in the Press | December 21, 2016

She Killed Her Abuser Before He Could Kill Her—Then Served 17 Years. Now She’s Taking on the System.

A proposed New York State law could offer justice to women who fight back against abusive partners. Kim Dadou is doing everything she can to make it a reality. On the night of December 17, 1991, Kim Dadou’s boyfriend, Darnell Sanders, drove up to her mother’s house. He waited for her in his car, parked on the street.Read More

CA in the Press | December 13, 2016

Parole Reform Groups Say Proposed New Rules Don’t Go Far Enough

ALBANY – Groups frustrated at the state’s unyielding attitude toward releasing some inmates has urged the Board of Parole to go further with new regulations meant to produce more favorable parole determinations. The proposed regulations would base inmate release decisions more on prospective risk to the public and less on the nature of the crime that led to incarceration (NYLJ, Oct.Read More

CA in the Press | November 25, 2016

For Women, a Cheaper, Better Alternative to Prison

Here’s a riddle: Would you rather pay $10 dollars, one time, or $11, repeatedly, for the rest of your life? Anessa Rabbit (photo: Andrea Morales for the NYT) If you chose the first option, you acted logically. If you chose the second option, you acted the way the United States government acts when it imprisons female drug addicts.Read More

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CA in the Press | October 12, 2016

How Does Incarceration Impact the Spread of HIV?

Baltimore has one of the higher HIV rates among U.S. cities. It’s also the city that one-third of the people in Maryland’s state prisons call home. What do the two have to do with each other? A lot, according to “The Global Burden of HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and Tuberculosis in Prisoners and Detainees”, a recent study on HIV and incarceration worldwide.Read More

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CA in the Press | October 4, 2016

“The System Abuses Us by Locking Us Up Forever”: Aging Survivors Behind Bars

On October 6, 2016, 15-year-old Bresha Meadows will appear in an Ohio family court for the death of her abusive father. Meadows had spent a lifetime watching her father hit, kick, shove and control her mother. If her mother tried to leave, her father often threatened that he would kill her and their three children.Read More

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| August 11, 2016

AUDIO: Rally to End Solitary Confinement

Rally to End Solitary in Harlem. Photo NYC Quaker Outside the New State Office Building in Harlem on a hot summer day, prison reform advocates stand with NYC Quakers. They oppose solitary confinement and demand an end to the inhumane treatment of inmates. Right now about 5000 inmates in NY are in the shu.Read More

CA in the Press | June 25, 2016

On the Count (WBAI): Pass the Domestic Violence Survivors’ Justice Act (DVSJA)

Listen to LadyKatherine Williams-Julien  discuss the DVSJA with host State Senator Bill Perkins on this broadcast of “On the Count” on WBAI-FM radio.Read More

CA in the Press | June 23, 2016

Providing Free Pads And Tampons To Incarcerated Women Is About More Than Hygiene

For incarcerated women in the U.S., the experience of a monthly period can be stressful and demeaning. While jails often supply menstrual products, such as pads and tampons, they are typically poor quality and doled out in limited numbers. If a woman needs more than what’s been allocated for her, she might be able to buy products from the commissary — if she can afford it.Read More

Organizational Materials

Women in Prison Project (WIPP) Brochure

Under unique statutory authority granted to the CA in 1846, WIPP monitors conditions in women’s prisons in New York, a role played by no other group in the country. WIPP coordinates the Coalition for Women Prisoners, a statewide alliance of more than 1,800 people, and carries out advocacy campaigns to reform harmful criminal justice policies.Read More

Advocacy Tools Video

Ending the barbaric practice of shackling incarcerated pregnant women

Watch the Correctional Association’s video about the barbaric – and illegal – shackling of incarcerated women during childbirth. In 2009 New York enacted a statute restricting the use of shackles on women during childbirth. The law bans outright the use of restraints on women throughout labor, delivery and recovery “after giving birth,” which is meant to cover at least the duration of a woman’s stay at the hospital. Read More

Advocacy Tools Video

Why we need the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act

VAW

Join the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) Campaign and be part of a movement to change the criminal justice system’s harsh and inappropriate response to DV survivors who act to protect themselves from an abuser’s violence.Read More

Advocacy Tools

A Place to Call My Own, Women and the Search for Housing After Incarceration

For a woman in transition from incarceration, securing housing is much more complex that just finding shelter. Read More

Testimonies

NYS Public Protection Committee Budget Hearing: February 6, 2013

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The Correctional Association testified about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Fiscal Year 2013-14 proposed budget for public protection, focusing on his proposal to close two women’s prisons, Bayview and Beacon Correctional Facilities. Our testimony expresses the concern that closing Bayview and Beacon Correctional Facilities will eliminate some of the most effective opportunities incarcerated women have to maintain family ties and prepare for a successful reentry.Read More

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Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Summer 2012

In this issue; The Close to Home Initiative: youth leaders speak out; The Prison Rape Elimination Act; Welcome to CA’s new staff and board membersRead More

Testimonies Video

May 30, 2012 Senate Democratic Conference Public Forum Testimony, Kim Dadou

Kim Dadou in Albany

Kim Dadou, advocate and survivor of domestic violence, testifies at Women's Forum on Domestic Violence.Read More

Testimonies Video

May 30, 2012 Senate Democratic Conference Public Forum Testimony, Tamar Kraft-Stolar

The Director of the Correctional Association's Women in Prison Project testifies before the Senate Democratic Conference Public Forum on Domestic Violence on May 30, 2012.Read More

Video

Kim Dadou Shares Her Experience As a DV Survivor in Prison

Kim says prison is not the place for a battered woman to be rehabilitated. Read More

Video

Jaya Vasandani Outlines the DVSJA

Jaya Vasandani, Associate Director of the Women in Prison Project at the CA, explains the policy side of the DVSJA and how it would affect both current DV survivors who are incarcerated and survivor defendants after the bill is passed.Read More