New Jersey Women and Incarceration

Last month, New Jersey Reentry Corporation held their annual conference at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City with various speakers from throughout New Jersey including several participants speaking from their own personal experience with the prison system and post-prison life. During the “women’s panel,” attendees learned a little more about how “the incarceration of women in New Jersey, and nationwide, can destroy their families’ security and earning power. The experience can also decimate the imprisoned women’s dignity and humanity.”

A few months ago, WomenRising began hosting domestic violence support groups for detainees and inmates at Hudson County Correctional Center. WomenRising’s Domestic Violence Advocate, Devangi Raval, explains more about her experience working with imprisoned and detained women in Hudson County and their struggle after they are released:

“Our experience with the women incarcerated while working at Hudson County Correctional Center has been enlightening. It seems that once they are imprisoned, they do not have freedom... even when they are released. It’s a very long process to find that freedom and the road to self-sufficiency. There is so much at stake for these women.

When they are released, safety takes priority. They need a place to feel secure, however, in many cases, the women we’ve met do not have a home to go back to. A lot of women have gone through domestic violence or sexual assault in their lives. And, upon release, many women put themselves back at risk of being in abusive situations just for the sake of shelter.

Prior to being incarcerated, many may have felt imprisoned by their abusers and that feeling does not leave until they are really self-sufficient, independent and free from violence. Yet, most have never reached out for help or even considered counseling for their trauma.

Many of the women have also had their children taken away from them upon entering the jail and some of the immigrant women detained may not even have families or a support system in the U.S. Regardless of how long they’re at Hudson County Correctional Center, when they leave, it often feels like they have to start all over again: find jobs, shelter, guidance, support, and/or reunite with their children after being apart for a while.

Everyone needs support through their crisis situation regardless of the circumstance. Women’s transition out of the correction center is just as difficult as explained at the New Jersey Reentry Corporation.  When one does not have shelter, safety, a job to provide for themselves, or counseling to get them through their trauma, transitioning out of jail and into society can be very difficult.

We believe that taking counseling off of the back burner and providing support groups while women are still incarcerated as well as a support system like WomenRising to turn to upon leaving the correction center is crucial to lessening the burden of transitioning back into society.”