In Virginia and across the country, women are being incarcerated at rates that are increasing much more rapidly than men.
Women comprised 15.3% of the average daily population in Virginia’s local and regional jails in 2014, about one percent higher than the percentage of women incarcerated in local jails nationally. This represents a 32% increase between 2010 and 2014—more than double the national increase during the same time period. In contrast, the average number of men inmates only increased about 4 % between 2010 and 2014.
These statistics give rise to a few critical questions:
Why is the incarceration of women increasing in Virginia at much higher rates than the incarceration of men?
Are there gender-specific factors that are not being addressed through ongoing legislative and policy efforts to reduce Virginia’s prison and jail populations? If so, what are they?
And what reforms must be made to ensure that women are included in our efforts to promote safe communities while reducing the number of Virginians sentenced to prison and jail time?
The over-incarceration of women is a symptom of a complex network of social barriers, economic inequality, reproductive injustice, and racial and sexual discrimination deeply woven into our society. This paper is intended to be the first step in a long campaign to reform the criminal justice system for all women in Virginia.
Watch the press conference marking the launch of this report here, which includes powerful stories by Kemba Smith, author of "Poster Child: The Kemba Smith Story" and advocate for incarcerated women, and Heidi Christiansen, advocate and resident of Friends of Guest House.