Excerpt from "Is Criminal Justice Reform Possible", Sojourners 3/15/2018
The problems in the United States’ criminal justice system go all the way back to slavery, according to Dominique DuBois Gilliard, who directs racial reconciliation work for the Evangelical Covenant Church.
Both slavery and incarceration are means of racial and social control, said Gilliard, who sees these controls working together throughout American history — from Jim Crow to lynchings to the war on drugs to the privatization of prisons.
“Mass incarceration, particularly from 1970 to the present, is just the latest articulation and iteration of it, not this new manifestation,” he said.
Excerpt from "Sentencing Project"; November 2013
Over the past quarter century, there has been a profound change in the involvement of women within the criminal justice system. This is the result of more expansive law enforcement efforts, stiffer drug sentencing laws, and post-conviction barriers to reentry that uniquely affect women. Women now comprise a larger proportion of the prison population than ever before; the female prison population stands nearly eight times higher than its population count in 1980. More than 60% of women in state prisons have a child under the age of 18.1)
Between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700%, rising from a total of 26,378 in 1980 to 215,332 in 2014.2)
They’re women who were victimized as children, ignored in substandard schools and unprotected by social services. Who dropped out of high school, self-medicated with alcohol or illegal drugs and then made mistakes that got them caught up the in the prison industrial complex.
Excerpt from "Breaking the Prison Pipeline"
“Everyone needs a place to live. Everyone needs a place to come home to every night,” she says. “I don’t understand why our society, our government, can think that you can lock a person away for months or years … and then release them back after they pay their debt without any support and expect it to be okay.”
The State of California spends, on average, about $60,000 to incarcerate a woman for a year. And when inmates are released, Burton notes, most are “ill-equipped to get a job, to go back to school, to be a productive member of society.”
... But that kind of policy shift would require society to change how it views the purpose of prison. “It has to be about more than punishment. We need to rehabilitate people,” she says. “We lock up far too many people in America today. We lock them up as if locking them up is gonna solve the problem. And locking them up does not solve the problem. Did locking me up make me better? No, it did not. It made my struggle harder.”
Gloria Walton knows that the key to keeping ex-criminals out of prison starts with a place to call home.
...One of Walton's biggest priorities is helping residents start the process of reuniting with their families. Many of the women are mothers, and Walton sees firsthand the effects that a parent's imprisonment and addictions have on children. "I enjoy setting them on the road to recovery," says Walton. "You can't change the past, but we're at least providing a fresh start."