Task force announces plan to cut women’s prison population in half

Illinois Capitol News

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The state is working towards revamping the state’s juvenile justice system, and this week a state-wide task force said its time to reform the women’s system, too.

The task force is made up of state politicians and advocacy groups across the state. It started in 2018, and the goal was set at decreasing women’s prison population by 50 percent.

COVID-19 gave the plan a huge head start. Governor Pritzker cut the women’s prison population by 37 percent during the pandemic in an effort to slow the spread of COVID in jails.

The one billion dollar proposal would reallocate funding that normally goes towards running prisons. Instead, it would go towards supporting treatment centers and other groups that aim to help women facing trauma or addiction get reacclimated to society.

“The percentage is decreasing, and women are given a chance,” Bethany Little, Director of Women in Need Recovery said. “That means more women going to school, more women, women getting jobs, that are beyond a job worth what they see as a felony.”

The Statewide Women’s Justice Task Force report found that there were 68,000 court admissions to state women’s prisons in the last 30 years, and 86 percent of those were from non violent offenses.

“This report reveals that too many women are serving prison sentences for finding ways to survive unacceptable community conditions, for having mental health and substance use issues that often arise from the trauma of gender-based violence, poverty, and racism, and for ‘crimes’ deeply linked to sexual and economic exploitation,” said WJI Co-Founder Alyssa Benedict.

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