Between 1980 and 2020, the number of incarcerated women rose by more than 475%, according to a new report from The Sentencing Project.
The report shows Black women are 1.7 times more likely than white women to be incarcerated. Latina women are 13 times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts. In Pennsylvania, the trend follows national data, with the number of incarcerated women rising sharply between 1980 and 2015.
While overall prison population fell in 2020 during the start of the pandemic, the number of incarcerated women is still higher than in years past, and women coming home post-incarceration face unique challenges.
Tonie Willis spoke to those barriers in an interview with WHYY’s Cherri Gregg.
“A high percentage of women are mothers and when they come home, they have to be mommy and they don’t even get a chance to deal with the trauma of incarceration,” said Willis. “A lot of times their primary caregiver is meeting them at the door with the children to hand the children over to the mother.”
Willis is the founder of Ardella’s House, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that supports incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and girls. The group recently renovated a property in North Philadelphia that will provide transition housing for women coming home from prison.
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