Barbara Baumgartner, Associate Director of the Prison Education Project, has received the St. Louis Project Grant from the Gephardt Institute for the 2nd year in a row to host a symposium on gender and incarceration.
September 22, 2017
Women, Incarceration and Public Health
After last year’s symposium, participants expressed interest in future conferences on related topics. As a result, this year’s symposium will examine a wide range of related topics, including the violence and trauma experienced by women prior to their incarceration, appropriate trauma informed treatment practices that could be helpful for both incarcerated and recently released women, services that could be offered to keep nonviolent female offenders in the community rather than incarcerated, alternatives offered by mental health courts and drug courts, and similar issues.
To view details from last year’s event, click here.
“Gender Impacts: Women, Incarceration and Public Health” will be held on September 22nd. For more details about the upcoming event, click here.
History of Women’s Incarceration
Between 1980 and 2010, the number of women in prison increased at almost 1.5 times the rate of men. In this thirty year period, numbers of incarcerated women rose by 646%; the rate of men’s incarceration rose 419%. In 2015, Missouri ranked as 5thin the number of incarcerated women, which was up from 10th place in 2013.
Despite the growing numbers of women being sent to prison and being released from prison, the vast majority of services, both for incarcerated individuals and those being released, are designed for men. Few community agencies focus on the needs of women. While men and women coming out of prison share many of the same barriers and problems, research has shown that formerly incarcerated women have not only different needs than men, but they have a greater need for services than men.
One of the biggest challenges that women in prison face are related to their children. When men go to prison, the vast majority of the time, the mothers of their children care for them during their incarceration; when women go to prison, it’s usually grandparents or other relatives who take in the children, but children can also end up in the foster care system, and sometimes mothers lose their parental rights while they are incarcerated.
This symposium, “Gender Impacts: Women and the Criminal Justice System,” will be co-sponsored by The Washington University Prison Education Project, Let’s Start, Center for Women in Transition, and Connections to Success.
While the Prison Education Project only teaches male inmates at the moment, as a co-sponsor, PEP is interested in the ways in which incarceration impacts women and their families. As a result of this symposium, PEP started a reading group for women in the Greenville Federal Correctional Institute in Greenville, Illinois. It’s a non-credit course in which the group reads and discusses 3-4 books each semester.
The Center for Women in Transition (CWIT) provides housing, life skills, substance abuse counseling, and other assistance to women who have recently been released from prison.
Let’s Start offers assistance to the families of incarcerated women. They provide monthly bus trips that transport children of incarcerated women to the two women’s prisons in Missouri (100 and 250 miles from St. Louis), allowing children to regularly visit their mothers and maintain valuable friendships. Let’s Start also offers a free weekly support group for women, for those who have been incarcerated and for those who struggle with substance abuse. Let’s Start also offers counseling services for children, legal assistance for women who are trying to regain custody of their children, parenting sessions, and legislative advocacy for prison and sentencing reform.
Connections to Success is an organization that targets people in poverty and provides them with support and tools to become economically independent.