According to the National Research Council, it has been documented that colossal and persistent racial disparities are one of the main factors that have stimulated the growth of more than a quadrupling of United States citizens to become victims of mass incarceration- particularly between white and black women.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, African American women were the leading figures of having the highest incarceration rate among females. As stated in research by the PrisonPolicy.Org, the trend for women in prison were very different from men during the late 1990s. During the period of 1980 to 1990, there was a steep growth in the number of black women who were incarcerated and eventually ended up exceeding the number of white imprisoned women.
There are several reasons why the overrepresentation of black women among prisoners is much higher in comparison to their representation within the general population. Black women’s ostracism from the concepts of protection developed several harsh realities within the criminal justice system.
Many black women lived in poverty and were only limited to work in either the domestic service or agricultural field. And when it came to domestic service work, these black women were often subjugated towards the unfair acts of the white people in the household- resulting in black women being vulnerable to their sexual harassments and, more than often, being accused of theft. Moreover, the court judges would be more inclined to believe the white employers over any black individual testimony, which is what started the increase of mass incarceration of black women and has continued for a very long time.
However, over the past couple of years, we have witnessed some changes in the rates of people being sent to prison based on their race and ethnicity. According to the Sentencing Project, there has been a decline in incarceration rates for African American people. From around 2000 to 2009, the state and federal prison incarceration statistics have shown a sharp fall of about 30.7% for black women and 9.8% for black men. In contrast to their numbers, there has been a rise in the incarceration of 47.1% in white women and 8.5% in white men.
While it can be said that reduced crime rates within the black population might be the reason behind these declining numbers- it is also the result of many policies and practices that are being introduced in the criminal justice system. Some of these include incentives for sentence reduction, enhancing reentry support, lowering the technical violence during parole, etc.
A prime example of one of the most significant changes in black incarcerated women’s condition are the relentless efforts conducted by Pamela Winn.
As an African American political and social justice activist, Pamela is the leading figure behind the ant-shackling movement, a winner of the unanimous passage of the HB345, which put an end to the solitary confinement and shackling of incarcerated pregnant women in Georgia.
She is also a 2017 Leading with Conviction Fellow of JustLeadership USA, 2018 Erin J. Vuley Fellow, 2019 Community Change Women’s Fellow, and 2019 Soros Justice Fellow dedicated to the cause of reducing the mass incarceration rates. She has actively taken part in numerous programs and projects, leading her to establish a policy advocacy organization, “RestoreHER US. America,” which serves to provide safety to incarnated women who continue to suffer under the influence of racial disparities within the criminal justice system.