Tina Reynolds, the Co-Founder and Chair of WORTH (Women On the Rise Telling HerStory) speaks on reproductive justice and the challenges, issues and perceptions concerning women who are incarcerated and impacted by the criminal justice system at a quarterly P.A.U.D. (Pan-African Unity Dialog) meeting.
WORTH (Women On the Rise Telling HerStory) is an advocacy/consultant group composed of currently & formerly incarcerated women, who have the expertise and understanding to engage, navigate and challenge policy and perceptions concerning incarcerated women.
Reynolds (a formerly incarcerated woman) and 17 other women started this organization when they came to the conclusion that women’s voices were missing from policy conversations about issues facing incarcerated or formerly incarcerated women and their families.
“Because I have the experience of having been incarcerated,” Reynolds shares, “I can tell you that many women in this situation have tenacity – they don’t give up regardless of what they are facing. Some currently and formerly incarcerated women are also not afraid to push the envelope. Whatever the challenges they face, they feel strongly that their voices must be heard and changes made. Women go through an incredible self-transformation as part of this process. Women who are formerly incarcerated and are working to change policy are on the rise; this is why we believe so strongly in WORTH. There is a huge shift from experiencing the oppression of being incarcerated to being empowered to change policies.”
With more than one million women behind bars or under the control of the criminal justice system, women are the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population increasing at nearly double the rate of men since 1985, according to the ACLU. Over the past 20 years the war on drugs has caused significant rise in the number of women incarcerated and their access to adequate drug treatment.
Corrections policies and practices have largely been developed through the lens of managing men, not women. According to the American Jail Association, generally, policies and practices in jails (and prisons) do not reflect an understanding of the risk and needs of female offenders because much of the empirical research originally focused on male offenders. In fact, one research study revealed that gender differences were often ignored in assessment and classification procedures for women (Van Voorhis & Presser, 2001). Another more recent survey of State prisons revealed that 30 percent did not have policies unique to women (King & Foley, forthcoming). Another more comprehensive national survey of women’s programs in the criminal justice system indicated that classification, screening, and assessment were not adapted to women.
DID YOU KNOW?
Women of color are significantly over-represented in the criminal justice system.
- Black women represent 30% of all incarcerated women in the U.S, although they represent 13% of the female population generally
- Hispanic women represent 16% of incarcerated women, although they make up only 11% of all women in the U.S.
Among female state prisoners, two-thirds are mothers of a minor child.
- Over 1.5 million children have a parent in prison
- More than 8.3 million children have a parent under correctional supervision and more than one in five of these children is under five years old.
With the rising numbers of women being incarcerated in a system build through the lens of managing men, many women’s rights are not taking into consideration. Women like Tina Reynolds and groups like Worth are trying to change that.
About WORTH: WORTH is an association of currently and formerly incarcerated women who have been empowered by our own experiences. Through leadership development, organizing, mentoring, mutual support and telling our stories. WORTH transforms the lives of women affected by incarceration and changes public perception and policy.
About Tina Reynolds: Tina Reynolds received a Master in Social Work from Hunter College in 2003, co-founded WORTH (Women on the Rise Telling Her Story) for women affected by the criminal justice system, and is a board member of both Justice Works Community and the Virginia Drew Foundation. In her work over the past ten years, Ms. Reynolds partnered with formerly and imprisoned women to challenge and offer solutions to policies and other barriers women and families face during and after incarceration. Tina also developed a curriculum “Impact of Incarceration on Society, Community, Families and Children” for the City University of New York.