Illinois laws aim to improve prison, parole systems for women

February 22, 2018

Two new laws in Illinois will seek to improve conditions and long-term outcomes for women in prison by providing them with more gender-responsive programming.

Under HB 1479, signed into law in January, a permanent women’s division will be created within the Illinois Department of Corrections. It complements last fall’s passage of HB 3904, which requires the women’s prison and parole system to have trauma-informed, family-centered policies and programs in place. These programs also must reflect women-centered research on the most effective types of treatment interventions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of female prisoners under state jurisdiction at the end of 2016 was as follows: 2,613 in Illinois, 2,205 in Indiana, 821 in Iowa, 869 in Kansas, 2,242 in Michigan, 774 in Minnesota, 424 in Nebraska, 213 in North Dakota, 4,594 in Ohio, 498 in South Dakota and 1,488 in Wisconsin.

According to The Sentencing Project, the number of women in U.S. prisons increased by more than 700 percent between 1980 and 2014. More than 60 percent of female prisoners have children under 18. Women are more likely than men to have been incarcerated for drug or property offenses.