Transforming Justice for Incarcerated Mothers and Young Women

Transforming Justice conference

Transforming Justice for Incarcerated Mothers and Young Women

Since 1980, the number of incarcerated women in the United States has increased more than 700%.1

At present there are more than 1.2 million women under the supervision of the criminal justice system.2

While Black women only represent approximately 12% of the general population in America, they have represented more than 50% of the female prison population since the mid 1990’s.3

Approximately 75% of women in prison are mothers, and more than 60% of women in state prisons have a child under age 18.4

Those statistics formed the backdrop to Transforming Justice: Mobilizing Incarcerated Mothers and Young Women through Community Action, a one-day conference that was held by the Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research in collaboration with four community-based organizations: Alliance of Local Service Organizations (ALSO), Girls Like Me, Traffick Free and Acclivus, Inc.

Transforming Justice panel discussion

The invited presenters and audience were comprised of researchers, criminal justice professionals, community advocates, practitioners and formerly incarcerated women.

The goal of the conference was to initiate a course of action to mobilize community demands for optimizing the opportunities for women to remain safe, healthy and treated fairly in and out of the justice system. This was accomplished through three panel discussions during the morning session:

  1. Restorative Justice Practices to Keep Young Women in School
  2. Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: Understanding and Addressing Deviant Behavior as a Reaction to Trauma
  3. From Corrections to Community: Prenatal and Parenting Support for Incarcerated Mothers and Their Children

The afternoon of the conference began with a World Café session to elicit ideas and input on problems and issues that can be the basis for future organizing and mobilization.

UIC faculty Patricia O'Brien

The event concluded with a brief award ceremony. Community Leadership awards went to four women who have successfully re-entered into the community and have become leaders within their respective communities. Enduring Spirit awards went to 16 women to honor their positive transformation after incarceration.

Please download our Conference Report to read a summary of current problems and issues that were identified during the conference, as well as recommendations from participants and panelists as to how those problems should be addressed through new or adapted policies.

Click to download the Conference Report

  1. Carson, E.A. (2015). Prisoners in 2014. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics
  2. Carson, E.A. (2015). Prisoners in 2014. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics;
    Minton, T.D., and Zeng, Z. (2015). Jail Inmates at Midyear 2014. Washington, DC: Bureau of
    Justice Statistics; Kaeble, D., Maruschak, LM, and Bonczar (2015). Probation and Parole in the
    United States, 2014 . Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  3. Hartney, C., &Vuong, L. (2009, March). Created equal: Racial and ethnic disparities
    in the U.S. criminal justice system . Oakland, CA: National Council on Crime and Delinquency
  4. Fact Sheet: Incarcerated Women and Girls. (2015). The Sentencing Project. Washington, D.C.
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