National Prison Group Notes Importance of Addressing Gender Discrepancies Behind Prison Release Data

Via Pxfuel

By Kaylynn Chang 

EASTHAMPTON, MA — The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), in a new report, addressed pressing discrepancies between gender identity and life after prison.

“Incarceration extends beyond the confines of prison walls, impacting millions who are released each year in dire need of support and reentry resources,” PPI begins, highlighting the often-overlooked challenges faced by individuals reentering society.

Moreover, the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) data collection methods like the Annual Survey of Jails do not provide categorized state-by-state statistics about local jails and prisons, charged PPI, noting the BJS only publishes the “total number of people released by each prison system.” 

PPI further reveals the difficulty in accessing specific data breakdowns, because the BJS’ state-level release data by sex are only available up to 2019.

Taking notice of the lack of readily available information in understanding and addressing post-incarceration challenges, PPI focuses in particular on how disaggregated data can provide insight on the mass incarceration of women, which PPI reveals “has grown at twice the pace of men’s incarceration in recent decades.”

“No matter how or where a woman is incarcerated, women are generally worse off than men leading up to their incarceration,” claims PPI, emphasizing the unique struggles women face in state prisons, and noting the broader societal impact of incarcerating women, as many are primary caregivers for their children and are far away from families in prison. 

PPI also states “more than half of incarcerated women are mothers, …. and more likely than men to be primary caregivers to children,” stressing the need to keep women out of correctional facilities should be key, but the lack of data obscures their needs and hampers policy making efforts. 

In addition, PPI addresses the challenges of discerning gender identity, noting “government surveys typically include trans men under ‘females’ and trans women under ‘males,’ and do not ask further about self-reported gender identity.” 

Estimating what prison releases would look like in 2022 by sex, PPI used female prison release data from 2019 to “estimate that about 55,179 people were released from female state and federal prisons in 2022, of which about 3,951 were from federal prisons.”

Moving to local jails, the article stated since the BJS does not publish the total number of releases, the article utilizes the number of jail admissions in 2022—reported as 7.3 million—as a proxy. 

Examining the existing data, PPI used “the percentage of all jail releases in 2019 that were women (23 percent) and applied that percentage to our estimate for total jail releases in 2022.”

Nodding to slow improvements in data collection for women, PPI acknowledges the BJS’ recent considerations of “adding questions about pregnancy and maternal health in its national surveys of correctional facilities,” which would benefit data collection.

PPI emphasizes the importance of this kind of specialized data in addressing the unique needs of incarcerated women all over the nation.

About The Author

Kaylynn Chang is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley looking to major in Legal Studies with a strong interest in criminal justice and judicial law. Having years of experence with journalism and leading a publication, she loves to look for the stories of her community, focusing on the hidden voices and intriguing tales of people. She hopes to attend law school in the future, but for now she is looking to gain experience and experiment with her path. A passionate creator, a cafe connoisseur, and a library enthusiast, Kaylynn is always looking for small adventures along with accomplishing big goals.

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