Call for alternatives to imprisonment now
Poverty, mental health conditions and substance use can lead women down a dangerous road with few choices. 92% of women in prison are incarcerated for minor crimes, sentenced to six months or less. While posing virtually no risk to public safety, imprisonment utterly derails their lives and can irreparably harm the lives of their children. There is a better way. And you can help.
Did you know…
Poverty can increase your chances of being sent to prison
We all know poverty reduces opportunities. But did you also know it even factors into whether you’re sentenced to prison or not?
Lack of income, unstable housing, education level and whether you were a victim of child abuse are all considerations in the decision to incarcerate. We don’t believe poverty or being a victim of crime as a child should increase someone’s chances of serving time behind bars. We’re calling for changes to sentencing considerations.
The concentration of Indigenous women in prison is 7 times higher than in BC
Indigenous women make up just 6% of BC’s population but more than 42% of prison inmates. Why? It’s a combination of the sentencing considerations outlined above and racist government policies and procedures that are reflected in our justice system. We’re calling for the end of systemic racism in government and for a fair and equitable justice system.
Almost half of women in prison struggle with mental health or substance use
Untreated mental health issues and substance use drive women to actions that cause them to come into conflict with the law. Many women can’t access mental health or substance use recovery support because their conditions are seen as a moral failure rather than a health issue. Support services are often over capacity and they don’t exist in every community. Very few intensive substance use treatment programs permit mothers to bring their children, so single mothers must choose between getting help and maintaining custody of their children. We’re calling for health conditions to be regarded as such and for women to have meaningful access to treatment, that include viable options for parenting mothers.
Half of women in prison are single mothers
What would you do to support your child? We’ve had clients sent to prison for stealing food. Parental incarceration is devastating for children. Studies show that without specialized supports, half will face the same challenges as their parents, including incarceration. When a single mother is incarcerated, her children don’t just lose their caregiver, they are forced to move and so lose their home, school and friends. Canada committed to taking parenting responsibilities into account when sentencing mothers but has not made that the law. We’re calling for alternatives to incarceration, to support stability in children’s lives and help divert them from future justice system involvement.
Alternatives to incarceration improve public safety
The short sentences women serve show that sending them to prison doesn’t improve public safety. It just removes opportunity for women to address the challenges that led them to come into conflict with the law. We have seen firsthand countless cases of women diverted from prison rebuilding their lives, providing stable loving homes for their children and even seeking out opportunities to help others do the same. We’re calling for alternatives to incarceration to be rigorously pursued.
Marginalized women and children will greatly benefit from decarceration: the movement away from imprisonment and towards pathways that help women, families and society heal. When it comes to women who commit minor crimes, prison punishes us all.