My mother is a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Her method of coping with the trauma she experienced was to never stop moving. Literally. When I was growing up, we moved over and over again—14 times during my high school years alone. If, instead, her method of coping had been to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, there is no doubt in my mind that she would be in prison.
Very little separates my mother from the 12,508 women in Texas prisons right now. The vast majority of them have experienced significant trauma, and 81% of them have children. 65% of them are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, predominately drug offenses.
This is one of the many reasons why women’s justice is so important to me, and I am honored to be heading up TCJC’s new “Justice for Women” campaign. We kicked off the campaign with our Amplify Austin fundraiser on March 1st, raising $2,500 to support our women’s justice work. We continued the campaign last week with the release of a report on women in Texas’ criminal justice system – the first report in a two-part report series.
I invite you to check out part one of that series here. Called A Growing Population: The Surge of Women into Texas’ Criminal Justice System, it explores the concerning increase in the number of justice system-involved women in Texas, and it recommends programs and policies that can reverse this trend and effectively redirect women away from the criminal justice system.
At that link above, you will also find stories of women impacted by Texas’ justice system, and organizations that are partnering with us to create a coalition for system-impacted women.
The second report in our series, An Unsupported Population: The Treatment of Women in Texas’ Criminal Justice System, will be released in April. It explores the unique issues facing system-impacted women, including the challenges they face within TDCJ facilities, and it recommends programs and policies that treat women with dignity and increase the likelihood that they can successfully rejoin their families and communities.
While we demand state-level reform to address these issues, it is also critically important that local communities take steps to help women at risk of system involvement. On March 6th, TCJC – alongside Grassroots Leadership and the Decarcerate ATX coalition – successfully urged the Travis County Commissioners Court to withdraw a proposed $97 million in funding for a new women’s jail. Instead, the Commissioners will consider other opportunities to advance the health and safety of the community through diversion and treatment alternatives for women in need.
And more from TCJC is on the horizon! We will be featuring system-impacted women’s stories throughout the month of March on our Facebook page, and we are partnering with the Justice Action Network to host a women’s justice event in Austin in May.
I am so blessed to get to do this work, and I am so grateful to all of our partners who are working tirelessly to see that women are treated with dignity, and that families and communities are supported.
To stay up-to-date on our women’s justice work, including information about our upcoming event, follow TCJC on Facebook and Twitter. And to support our efforts, please visit texascje.zocalodesign.com/donate.