WPA's Institute on Women & Criminal Justice is a national policy center dedicated to:
- Reforming policy and practice affecting women in the criminal justice system
- Publishing timely research and information on criminal justice-involved women
- Serving as a resource to policymakers, media, and the public concerned about women and justice
- Supporting the voices of women who’ve experienced incarceration in advocating for change
Why Focus on Women?
The number of women in prison is growing at an alarming rate, and their involvement in the criminal justice system has a disproportionately negative impact on the well-being of children, families, and neighborhoods. Between 1977 and 2004, the number of women in prison grew by 757% -- nearly twice the rate for men.
Women in the criminal justice system are largely non-violent and not a risk to public safety. Typically, they are poor women of color who were arrested for drug-related crimes. Most have substance abuse histories, and are survivors of family violence and sexual abuse as well. Over three quarters are mothers and more than half have minor children at home.
Promoting A Better Way
Prison is an ineffective and expensive way to treat drug addiction and to develop independent living skills. It can cost over $100,000 a year to lock up a woman and place her children in foster care. Women leave prison with few tangible skills and face considerable obstacles once they reenter the community. Too often, responses to these complex problems are developed without consideration of the specific challenges raised by women.
The public deserves better outcomes from their investment of tax dollars. The Institute promotes the development of more effective approaches to dealing with women in the criminal justice system, reducing our reliance on prisons and shifting toward greater investment in communities.
For more information about the Institute on Women & Criminal Justice, contact us: