AVID Jail Project Observes International Women's Day

March 8, 2017

This International Women’s Day 2017, Disability Rights Washington’s AVID Jail Project hopes to shed light on the challenges faced by women with disabilities in our jails. Incarceration disproportionately impacts women with disabilities. Nationally, 49.5 percent of women in jails report having a disability, [1] compared with 12.4 percent of women in the general population. [2]

One year has passed since the AVID Project visited all of the county jails in Washington State. This statewide survey revealed six significant problems shared by most of these jails: insufficient access to programminginaccessibility for inmates with physical and sensory disabilitiesunnecessary and prolonged use of solitary confinementlimited access to medicationinadequate inmate screening for mental illness, developmental disabilities, and brain injuries; and inability to exercise voting rights while incarcerated. We also found that these problems were almost always worse for women than for men.

Women inmates huddle together and pose for the camera, in the general population female dorm of a county jail.

For example, the limited number of Washington’s county jails that offer designated mental health housing units often do not have equivalent units for women. Therapeutic or rehabilitative inmate programs are often unavailable to women. Several jails only maintain inmate worker positions for men. Some jails with physically accessible housing units do not provide this accommodation to women.

Read more about the AVID Project’s specific findings in the reports hyperlinked above. The Vera Institute of Justice recently released a national report on the disproportionately high number of women in jail and the disadvantages they face as a result of incarceration. We need to take bold action to reduce the rate of incarceration for women with disabilities and to end the discrimination women face in jail. #BeBoldForChange #IWD2017

Illustration of statistics re: women in jails. Background image is a dorm for women in jail with a tampon laying on the top of a bunk.

[1] Jennifer Bronson, Ph.D., Laura M. Maruschak & Marcus Berzofsky, Dr.P.H., U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report: Disabilities Among Prison and Jail Inmates, 2011-12 5 (2015), https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/dpji1112.pdf.

[2] U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 American Community Survey, Disability Characteristics (2012), https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_12_1YR_S1810&prodType=table.