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.

 

Close

More

News | December 11, 2017

MEDIA ADVISORY: Release of 2017 Report of First Hand Accounts of People in Solitary at Southport Prison

(December 11, 2017, NY:) Lawmakers, Advocates, Southport solitary survivors, and Family Members join the Correctional Association of New York (CA) to release a stunning new CA report about Southport Prison, featuring first-hand accounts of brutality, self-harm, mental, emotional, and physical abuse at one of only two prisons in New York State devoted primarily to solitary confinement.Read More

News | October 31, 2017

Correctional Assn. of NY Testifies at NY Assembly Hearing on Prison Health; Urges Health Department oversight, end to delays in treatment, and increase in resources for better care

(October 31, 2017, New York, NY)  The Correctional Association of New York (CA) yesterday was one of more than fifteen organizations and agencies testifying at a New York State Assembly Joint Health and Correction’s public hearing on prison healthcare. Through our statutory authority granted in 1846, the CA monitors New York prisons and reports to policy makers and the public, our observations and recommendations for reform.Read More

News | October 18, 2017

NY sets new rules for solitary confinement in local jails

ALBANY, N.Y. – New York is adopting new standards for the treatment of prisoners held in solitary confinement in local jails, including mandated time outside their cell and increased reporting requirements in an effort to prevent prisoner mistreatment. The changes, issued Tuesday by the state's Commission on Correction, come amid heightened scrutiny of solitary confinement and its psychological effects on inmates.Read More

News | June 28, 2017

Video Release: The ASFA Expanded Discretion Law and the Rights of Incarcerated Parents

ASFA photo

The Coalition for Women Prisoners (CWP) and the Women in Prison Project (WIPP) work in partnership to facilitate and support the implementation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act Expanded Discretion law (ASFA), which provides an opportunity for parents who were incarcerated or in residential treatment to regain custody of their children from foster care beyond the normal 15-month time frame. In partnership with Echoes of Incarceration, we are releasing a series of videos created to educate the various stakeholders about the law.Read More

News | June 19, 2017

The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act Challenges Double Punishment

A recent report by the Prisoner Reentry Institute of John Jay College (PRI), “Women InJustice: Gender and the Pathway to Jail in New York City,” is the latest study point out that that physical and sexual trauma and abuse histories are a significant root cause for women and girls’ involvement in the criminal legal system. Read More

News | March 6, 2017

CA Pens Letter to Governor Cuomo Opposing Any Reductions in Prison Visiting

As a follow up to the Correctional Association of New York's statement last month critical of reported plans by New York to severely limit the number of visits by family members to incarcerated loved ones in NY state prisons, in early March the CA wrote directly to Governor Andrew Cuomo to express its opposition to the plan.Read More

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 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

CA in the Press | November 5, 2017

State struggles to provide prison health care

ALBANY — New York’s complex of 54 state prison facilities is struggling to fill vacant jobs for nurses, doctors and other health care providers. Filling those vacancies and dealing with an aging prison population at facilities across the state have become among the tallest challenges for the $3 billion correctional system, top administrators concede.Read More

CA in the Press | October 26, 2017

She Knew She’d Deliver Her Son While She Was in Jail. She Didn’t Expect to Do It in Chains

Melissa Hall couldn’t hold her partner’s hand, so, as she wheezed through painful contractions and obeyed the nurse’s directives to push, push, push, she squeezed the chain shackling her to the hospital bed. When Hall, then 25, went into labor in April 2013, she was two months into a year-long sentence at the Milwaukee County Jail.Read More

CA in the Press | August 16, 2017

Women In Federal Prisons Are Now Guaranteed Free Tampons And Pads

The Federal Bureau of Prisons issued a memo earlier this month explicitly requiring prisons to provide a range of tampons and pads to incarcerated women, free of charge. While federal prisons already provide limited amounts of feminine hygiene products to inmates at no cost, the availability and quality of supplies vary from facility to facility.Read More

CA in the Press | August 10, 2017

State rule requires feminine hygiene products for female detainees

Police lockups will be required to have tampons, sanitary napkins on hand ALBANY — Police lockups will be required to have feminine-hygiene products on hand for female detainees under a new state rule adopted Wednesday. The rule from the state Commission of Correction mandates that tampons and sanitary napkins shall be made available to all female detainees at a facility’s expense.Read More

CA in the Press | June 10, 2017

“I Have to Hold My Family Together”: The Hidden Costs of Prison Visits

This story is the seventh piece in the Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series dives deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States' incarceration of more than 2 million people also harms many millions more -- including 2.7 million children.Read More

CA in the Press | May 5, 2017

Fixing Solitary Confinement In New York State Prisons

Victor Pate spent almost two years in solitary confinement in New York prisons, off and on. Once, he said, he was isolated for 90 days for having too many bed sheets in his room. Only two sheets were allowed per prisoner, but Pate was at his prison job when laundry pickup came, he said, so he kept a few extra sheets to ensure he would have clean ones.Read More

CA in the Press | April 20, 2017

In Jail, Pads and Tampons as Bargaining Chips

When Tara Oldfield-Parker, 24, was arrested on charges of shoplifting, she had just gotten her period. She asked the officers in charge of her holding cell in a police station in Queens for a sanitary pad. Sure, they said. But they would need to call an ambulance to get one. After about an hour and a half, they produced a sterile gauze pad, apparently obtained from an ambulance.Read More

CA in the Press | April 9, 2017

Menstruation and Incarceration: Prisons often lack or withhold necessary hygeine products, study shows

Menstruation can be inconvenient even in the best circumstances. However, for individuals who are incarcerated, there are obstacles that can make it much more than a minor stressor. Horror stories range from placing orders for period products that arrive too late (or not at all), to having to prove to correctional officers that their products have been fully soiled in order to receive more of them.Read More

CA in the Press | March 8, 2017

The Abuse Excuse: Dismissing Domestic Violence and Its Effects in the Criminal Court System

For decades, domestic violence survivors have been criminalized, prosecuted, and imprisoned for acts carried out by their abusive partners. In January, 30-year-old Noor Zahi Salman was arrested in connection with the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre that left 49 people dead and many more injured and traumatized. Salman’s name had, until then, been largely unfamiliar to the U.S.Read More

Tags: , ,

CA in the Press | February 19, 2017

Petition: Cuomo’s plan to reduce visitation at NY maximum security prisons ‘cruel’

A petition has been signed by more than 2,100 people opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reduce visitation at New York’s 17 maximum security correctional facilities. As of Saturday afternoon, there are 2,102 supporters of the petition titled “Don’t Restrict Visits in NYS Prisons!” The petition calls the governor’s plan to alter the visitation policy “regressive, counterproductive and cruel.” The initial goal for the petition is 2,500 supporters.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

correctional-association-jaya-vasandani-testifying-at-2013-budget

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

Tags:

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