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Women, Prison and Rehabilitation

Ten percent of the prison population is female, an astounding percentage considering that most of those women have children. The rate of incarceration for adult children of prison inmates is higher than that of the non-criminal population. The crisis of women in prison affects more than just those behind the walls and bars of correctional facilities, but also families, relatives, friends and society as a whole.

For these inmates, the ability to maintain gainful employment, support a household and provide for children and family members becomes a struggle without the right experience and education. Yet, education and experience can only be gained with a support system that includes childcare, but funding may not be available. It’s a vicious cycle that allows little opportunity for rehabilitated prisoners to make permanent life changes, and instead, often contributes to the rate of multiple offenses, especially non-violent, drug-related crimes. This cycle also makes the job of a probation or correctional officer difficult, as the ability to provide court monitoring and programs to women inmates is significantly lowered when faced with the lack of support in a family, community or through public policy.

Probation and rehabilitation programs for women are being established in correctional facilities across the country in order to address the lack of job-related skills women in prison face. Probation and correctional officers are able to tap into programs that give women the ability to attain a high school diploma and secure employment after incarceration. Some of these programs allow mothers in prison to care for their newborn children for the first year, helping establish positive bonds that contribute to rehabilitation. Drug and alcohol treatment programs are helping reduce the rates of reoffending among women in prison, as well. Other rehabilitation programs introduce women to skills and education that increase self-esteem and pride, raising expectations of women and providing hope for the future.

While the populations of both men and women in prison are increasing at an alarming rate, it is the women in prison that may face more challenges outside of the facility when it comes to rehabilitation. Supporting the unique challenges women face while in prison and easing the transition into a crime-free life can benefit women and families, helping to lower crime rates overall and give communities much-needed peace of mind.

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