Inmates who are women are increasing at the quickest pace in the US. The victimization that many—if not all—incarcerated women experience before incarceration is still a problem for correctional institutions. When they are in prison, where they frequently encounter the same violence, torture, and trauma, many women bring along with them. To change the situation, it is now more crucial than ever for someone with firsthand knowledge of life in jail to speak up and raise awareness of the appalling circumstances in the American prison.
Jamila Davis, one of today’s most accomplished African Americans in the fields of writing, business, education, motivational speaking, and activism for jail reform, is working on empowering incarcerated black women. She also happens to be the CEO of Black Women’s Lives Matter, the acclaimed Women Over Incarcerated co-founder, and the VIP Online Academy creator. She is used to working in a minority atmosphere because she is a Black woman in a position of responsibility. However, she recognizes the power she holds in uplifting other black women.
During her time in jail, Davis developed a self-help program to help women who were behind bars recover from their trauma, see their potential, and reclaim their aspirations. Many jail systems around the United States adopted this program after proven to be highly helpful. Additionally, Davis acted as evidence and an inspiration for many women who have followed the same self-healing road as she did after realizing that her healing journey was a direct outcome of the curriculum. Nowadays, it is commonly accepted that the United States has the most significant incarceration rate. Black, dark, and impoverished people are disproportionately overrepresented in jail populations, and these demographics are still prevalent today.
However, there has been a tremendous increase—roughly 700%—in the previous few decades in incarcerating more women in state, federal, and local penal facilities. Even if the number of women serving time for violent crimes has increased, the vast majority are in prison for drug-related and property-related offenses. Additionally, the Department of Justice statistics show that women of color have a disproportionate number of female prisoners. Compared to white women, African American women are twice as likely to be incarcerated, and the majority of these women are highly impoverished, living well below the poverty line.
Additionally, more than half of these women were the only provider for their families and were moms of children under 17. Due to the distance and costs associated with visiting prisoners, many lose contact with their kids after imprisonment. Their kids are then placed in foster homes, where they frequently begin acting out and risk ending up in jail themselves due to the repercussions of parental incarceration.
Jamila believes that this moment—when funding for gender equality is receiving increasing worldwide attention—presents a crucial chance to address the long-standing neglect of work with and for jailed women and girls. Funders of feminist and women’s rights, as well as other donors, ought to pay attention to the concerns and difficulties faced by organizations working in this field, particularly by women with lived experience, and think carefully about how they intend to address the problem of incarceration within their plans for women’s rights, especially black women and gender justice!
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