The imprisonment of US women has increased over 700% since the 1980s, according to The Sentencing Project (2020). And, according to the Vera Institute of Justice (2016), women are the fastest growing incarcerated population. From the Vera study: “Available research to help explain why women are increasingly incarcerated in U.S. jails is scarce, dated, and limited in scope. Nevertheless, general data about women in the criminal justice system provides clues about who these women are, and why they end up in jail. Like men in jail, they are disproportionately people of color, overwhelmingly poor and low-income, survivors of violence and trauma, and have high rates of physical and mental illness and substance use. The majority are charged with lower-level offenses—mostly property and drug-related—and tend to have less extensive criminal histories than their male counterparts. Unlike incarcerated men, women in jails are often primary caregivers to their young children—nearly 80 percent of women in jails are mothers, and most are single parents.”
More than 800 women are released from state prisons each year in Nevada, of which approximately 200 are released in Southern Nevada. In many cases, women exiting prison in the state are returning to unsafe environments -- homelessness or abusive relationships -- thus making winding up reincarcerated nearly inevitable. Currently, the state of Nevada does not have a formal reentry infrastructure or process that supports women exiting prisons. As such, women exiting prisons in Nevada are not provided with adequate post-release transition plans to ensure their safety and access to resources that mitigate the risk of recidivism and continued victimization by the criminal legal system.
Most reentry services focus on men and fail to address the distinct issues that women face when dealing with trauma that was often the cause of their incarceration in the first place and has persisted during and after incarceration. Left with few to no options, formerly incarcerated women often fall into homelessness following their incarceration, contributing to an already exacerbated homeless services system that is not fit to serve their specific needs.
Women’s empowerment: At its core, True Beginnings focuses on formerly incarcerated women and their families through direct services, advocacy, and community organizing. We believe an essential element of this new initiative is to empower the formerly incarcerated population to advocate for the elimination of harmful policies that perpetuate trauma by creating barriers to successful reentry. We will train formerly incarcerated women to engage in self-advocacy, lead local and state-level advocacy campaigns, and mobilize other impacted people in their communities.
Public official accountability: For too long, Nevada’s public officials and agencies responsible for the reentry process have not been held accountable for abuses of power, neglect, and the trauma they have inflicted on incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. We will hold public officials (such as parole, probation and the courts) accountable for upholding a seamless reentry process.
Nevada Reentry Housing: Beyond Divinity House, the state of Nevada currently has no dedicated housing for people returning home from incarceration. Unlike welcoming SAFE Homes like Divinity House, corrections-run halfway houses are unsafe and subject formerly incarcerated occupants to rampant trauma and abuse that persists behind their walls. With many of True Beginnings’ participants being parents or caregivers, they are often faced with the possibility of homelessness. As such, True Beginnings is scaling its SAFE housing across the Clark County region to develop and launch reentry housing collaboration of formerly incarcerated women offering housing for families in Southern Nevada.