Incarcerated Women

According to data from the San Francisco Adult Probation Department, during a six month period in the spring of 2012, there were 23 women released from state prison to community supervision, 24 from state prison to parole supervision, 6 women from federal corrections institutions to Federal Probation, and 1000 women released into the San Francisco Adult Probation Department.

Incarcerated Women with Children
There are 819 individuals with children who are incarcerated every day. A family impact statement reported a total of 1,585 children were affected by a parent’s incarceration. Around 38.7% were primary caretakers and 44.5% financially supported their children. Considering women’s role as parents and caretakers of children is essential in the development of appropriate services as an alternative to incarceration.

Race and Ethnicity
Black women are disproportionately represented compared to nation wide population. According to the last census, San Francisco is 48.5% white, 33.3% Asian, 15% Latino and 6.1% Black.

In a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sample survey of 82 women, the majority were Black (57%) followed by white (29%) and Latino (9%). The proportion of Hispanic women on parole is much larger than the in-custody population. In a snapshot of the county jail, a similar pattern of disproportionality among Black women emerged among the 159 women in custody at the same time – 60 percent of the women in jail were African American.

This pattern of racial disparity continues in the community supervision sample. Of the 944 women on probation, half were Black. Whites accounted for one-quarter followed by smaller numbers of Latino, Asian, and Pacific Islander women.

It should be noted that consistent information on ethnicity of the children of women involved with the S.F criminal justice system is particularly difficult to collect. National and state data allows the assumption that women in San Francisco fit the profile of other women enmeshed in the criminal justice system. They are disproportionately women of color, in their early to mid-thirties, most likely to have been convicted of a property or drug offense, have a fragmented family history with other family members in the criminal justice system, survivors of physical and sexual abuse, have significant substance abuse histories, have multiple physical and mental health problems, are single mothers of young children, limited to high school degree or GED, have limited vocational training, are low income and have sporadic work histories.Going forward, the first step in the process of reducing women incarceration is expanding alternative sentencing options, developing a collaborative case management system and enhancing programs and services in the community.

Written by Albrina Edwards