WOMEN's Justice PROJECT ADVISORY COMMITTEE

  • Alexandra Appleton, PSU student, reentry and homeless advocate, formerly incarcerated
  • Rev. Dr. Emily Brault, Chaplain
  • Freda Ceaser, Director of Employment Services, Employment Access Center, Central City Concern
  • Juan C. Chavez, Solo Attorney, National Lawyers Guild
  • Carma Corcoran, PhD, Chippewa-Cree, Lewis & Clark Law School Indian Law Program Coordinator
  • Ailene Farkac, MSW candidate, reentry navigator, formerly incarcerated
  • Isabel Hartshorn, client, volunteer and intern at Mercy Corps NW Reentry Transition Center, certified carpenter, and formerly incarcerated
  • Amy Nash-Kille, PhD, Manager of Research and Evaluation at KinderCare Education
  • Kerry Naughton, Executive Director, Oregon Abuse Advocates & Survivors in Service (OAASIS)
  • Honorable Darleen Ortega, Judge, Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Erica Rothman, Title IX Co-Coordinator, Portland Community College
  • Jackie Whitt, THW, PSS, PWS, client and volunteer at Mercy Corps NW Reentry Transition Center, residential electrician, and formerly incarcerated 

introduction

The Women’s Justice Project (formerly known as the Women in Prison Project) is the first and only program in Oregon to exclusively address issues related to women intersecting with the criminal justice system.

Over the past twenty years, the incarceration rate of women in Oregon has tripled, while the arrest rate for women has decreased 36-40% during that time. Despite these troubling statistics and the known detrimental impact that incarcerating women has on our communities, justice-involved women have largely been left out of conversations around criminal justice reform and ending mass incarceration. The Women's Justice Project was created to address this missing perspective.

Our goals are to ensure that the criminal justice system treats women fairly, protects their health and safety, and makes it possible for them to successfully rejoin their communities when they are released. We do this through focused direct legal services, strategic partnerships, public awareness campaigns, and coordinating our legal and advocacy areas to positively impact outcomes in favor of gender-responsive criminal justice reforms.

We partner with Red Lodge Transition Services and Mercy Corps Northwest’s Reentry Transition Center to provide individual legal assistance to women incarcerated in Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Ore., and to formerly incarcerated women. We help clients identify legal issues that might become or already are barriers to successful reentry into the community, and work with them to resolve issues or plan around legal roadblocks.

We encourage broader conversations about criminal justice and the health of our communities that include justice-involved women. Each year, we host the Women in Prison Conference, which highlights and discusses pressing issues of women in Oregon’s criminal justice system. We recently launched HerStory Oregon, which collects and shares the personal stories of justice-involved women to raise up their voices and to show us where gender-responsive improvements in the system are needed.

Our clients’ experiences, HerStory Oregon, and conversations with community partners inform us about issues affecting women in Oregon’s criminal justice system. We track these issues and identify opportunities to advocate for changes in practice, policy and law.

Recognizing the lack of an accessible, widely available source for background information on Oregon's women in prison, in September 2016 we released a report called "Women in Prison in Oregon". This report is available for download.

Please contact our Project Director, Julia Yoshimoto, to learn more. 

PREVENTING WOMEN'S PRISON EXPANSION

Overcrowding at Oregon's women's prison, Coffee Creek Correctional Facility has prompted Oregon's Department of Corrections to warn that it may need to seek funding to open a unit for women at Oregon State Penitentiary - Minimum in Salem.

This is estimated to likely require $10.5 million in funding through the biennium (through June 2017) to cover the costs of opening up and staffing the unit. We believe this expense can be avoided by adopting six solutions that can reduce the women prisoner population below the maximum occupancy of CCCF. These solutions are achievable and can be acted on quickly to have an immediate impact on bed numbers.

Our solutions are:

  • Expanding eligibility and use of the Family Sentencing Alternative Pilot Program that allows qualified offenders the chance to serve their sentence in the community and stay with their children

  • Streamlining the process of granting executive clemency and assist women who may be eligible in preparing and submitting their petitions

  • Identifying, reviewing and (where appropriate) granting applications for early release as Oregon law allows to severely/terminally ill, permanently incapacitated, or elderly inmates

  • Where appropriate, avoiding sending women to prison for probation violations where those violations are technical rather than the commission of new crimes

  • Increasing the length of transitional leave and expand access to and capacity of alternative incarceration programs (drug treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy)

  • Increasing pro bono assistance to women who are or will be eligible for parole. 

Read more about our proposed solutions in our report: "An Alternative to Women's Prison Expansion in Oregon."

NEW REPORT - FEBRUARY 2017 - Unlocking Measure 57.