ncarcerated women in New York, like incarcerated women across the United States, are affected by a number of alarming and often tragic realities. As a societal issue, the incarceration of women is a growing problem that has major ramifications for individuals, family members (especially children) and society as a whole.
One of the most troubling realities in the criminal justice system today is the sheer number of women who are going to prison. According to the Women’s Justice Alliance in New York City, “the United States continues to imprison a greater number of people than any other country in the world and women are the fastest-growing population under custody.
New York leads the nation, with the number of women sent to prison now six times greater than it was in 1980. There are now 2,000 female New York City jail inmates and over 3,500 women in state prisons. In New York City alone, there are over 2,700 women on parole and 10,000 on probation. 75% of incarcerated women are mothers, most with two or more children. WAM’s clients are primarily African American and Hispanic, with a lower ratio of white and Asian women. WAM clients tend to be young women aged 16 to 35. Most of them are or have been welfare recipients. At least 85% of them are low-level drug users with little or no education. Less than one-third have any job experience. An overwhelming majority are HIV-positive mothers who suffer from domestic violence. Many of these women are incarcerated for crimes that their boyfriends and family members have committed. Most of the women come from New York City’s five boroughs.