CHICAGO (CBS)–The female prison population in Illinois has been declining during the past two years, but nearly 2,300 women remain incarcerated.
Newly-proposed reforms aim to reduce that number even further–by cutting it in half.
CBS 2’s Lauren Victory reports on a reform proposal being pushed by advocates of female prisoners.
The Women’s Justice Institute is an organization comprised of former inmates, judges, social workers and prison workers who want to turn Illinois into the first state to cut the female prison population in half.
A task force formed under the umbrella of the organization became motivated to push for the change after examining statistics revealing 98 percent of female inmates had been physically abused at some point in their lives.
In addition, 75 percent of female prisoners reported being sexually abused in the past, and 85 percent said they had been abused or stalked by a partner at some point.
The group plans to meet their 50 percent reduction goal within the next seven years.
The reform measure will focus on gender-specific issues, especially comparisons of how prisoners lives were before and after prison.
“Had I gotten the help I needed and resources from my community, being asked when I was going through those dark times–what is going on with you and your family–I would have never made it to prison those four extra times,” said Colette Payne, a former inmate who sits on the task force.
Organizers of the reform-push say women’s unique needs are not properly addressed in jails across the U.S.
Getting perspective from former prisoners is key to fixing the problem, Colon sais.
“I’ve been home 18 years, but I feel like re-entry is a lifelong process,” she said. “My family is impacted (and ) my children are impacted by a scar–I call it ‘the scar of the beast.’