Gender Equity in Jails

In 2019, the American Jail Association recognized the need for an organizational focus on gender equity nationwide and made Gender Equity one of its standing committees. The Gender Equity Committee works to establish standards, practices, training and programs for jails across America. 

Purpose: ​To build and sustain a foundation for gender equity in jails across America; ingrained in culture, operations, and infrastructure, and inclusive of correctional staff, population, and community.

Mission: To provide national leadership that empowers women and advances gender equity and meaningful social change for those employed and involved in the criminal justice system.

The committee developed this page that AJA hopes will serve as a resource for those addressing Gender Equity in their agencies. If you have something to contribute to this page, please send it to Director of Communications Joel Huffer.

One in Five Women Has Left Workforce During Pandemic

About 22 percent of women in the U.S. have left the labor force since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released by U.S. Rep. Katie Porter’s office, citing an October survey from the Bipartisan Policy Center.
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Women at Work Podcast Looks at Struggles and Successes

Women at Work is a podcast from Harvard Business Review that looks at the struggles and successes of women in the workplace, hosted by HBR’s Amy Bernstein, Amy Gallo, and Emily Caulfield. In this episode, you’ll hear about the tension that comes from feeling like you are a shy person, but also an ambitious one who wants to lead a team. Listen here.


Four Steps to Improve Gender Equity in Remote Meetings

Recent research shows that workplace meetings held remotely often blunt women’s voices. Communication expert Carol Vernon says that ground rules and good planning can ensure everyone has a chance to contribute. Read more.


Gender Equity in Jails Across America Report Now Available 

Experts and practitioners from across the country met January 28-29, 2020 at the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) offices in Washington, D.C. to discuss issues facing women in the justice system. 

NIC sponsored the two-day meeting to assist the American Jail Association (AJA) with its work on gender equity.
Meeting attendees were selected for their knowledge, expertise, and perspective on gender issues and responsive practices for women working in corrections, justice-involved women, and the community.
The stated outcome of the meeting was to develop:

  • Targeted areas of focus for the AJA Gender Equity workgroup;
  • Deliverables for each target area; and
  • An action plan to guide the workgroup’s initiatives, including short-, medium-, and long-term goals.

Read the full report here.

AJA President Diggins Establishes Gender Equity in Jails initiative

After an incident in 2014, the Denver Sheriff Department established a Gender Equity Commission as part of an effort to create a more gender-responsive environment within its jails. The commission identified solutions that made gains in staffing the women’s housing unit, implemented department policy that allows pregnant deputies to work modified duties, and provided gender-responsive and trauma-informed training for staff, among other achievements.

In 2019, AJA President Elias Diggins established "Gender Equity in Jails Across the Country" as his initiative, and challenged every sheriff, director of corrections and jail administrator in America to create a Gender Equity Commission within their agency. The video above is from the President's Initiative panel on gender equity during AJA's 38th Annual Conference & Jail Expo in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Diggins was a guest on the Topeka K. Sam Show on SiriusXM Radio. President Diggins joined the show's host and Dawn Freeman of the Securus Foundation for a discussion about Gender Equity in Jails across the United States. Listen to a recording of the show.

Diggins and AJA President-Elect Marsha Travis, who will continue with Gender Equity in Jails as her initiative, discussed the topic with Freeman as guests on The Exodus Show during the Association for Justice-Involved Females and Organizations Conference. Watch the show here.

In October, Diggins was the recipient of the 2019 Legacy Award from the Association of Women Executives in Corrections, an organization that represents many of the most respected leaders in our field. Diggins' receipt of the award is largely attributed to the work AJA has begun with the gender-equity initiative.


NCCHC Writes Position Statements on Gender Equity Topics

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care has written Position Statements on two topics that relate to Gender Equity in Jails. These statements may assist correctional facilities in designing policies and procedures.

Read the Position Statement on Breastfeeding in Correctional Settings.

Read the Position Statement on Restraint of Pregnant Inmates.

Women Have Different Needs Than Men in Treatment Programs

Addiction experts say women in recovery often have different needs and obstacles than men. 

Those differences for women include a greater risk of psychiatric issues like depression or anxiety with addiction. And women are more likely to have a partner who has a substance-use issue.

“For many, many years, up until the ’90s and 2000s, almost all the (research) in the drug and alcohol fields focused on men,” said Dr. Kathleen Brady, an addiction psychiatrist at the Medical University of South Carolina who studies gender differences in substance use treatment. “Gender is an important issue. We really have to be looking for gender-specific differences” within traditional treatment programs." Read more.

We Can't Wait 202 Years for Gender Equality

With the multiplication and intensification of problems facing the global community, and with far too many girls and women still living with violence and discrimination, gender equality can’t wait.

Organizations in the fight need to find non-traditional partners that can make a difference, raise up the male allies who can serve as examples for others, and wield data to make the case for urgent and strategic action. Otherwise, the global community risks delaying gender equality for another 202 years. Read more.

Bar Association Crafts Resolution Regarding Access to Hygiene Products

Read the American Bar Association resolution that urges federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments to enact legislation, and correctional and detention facilities to enact policies, to provide all women prisoners in all forms of detention with unrestricted access to a free toilet paper and a range of free feminine hygiene products, including both tampons and sanitary pads in sufficient quantities to address their needs.

Vera Institute of Justice: Women in Jails in an Era of Reform

Since 1970, there has been a nearly five-fold increase in the number of people in U.S. jails—the approximately 3,000 county or municipality-run detention facilities that primarily hold people arrested but not yet convicted of a crime.

Despite recent scrutiny from policymakers and the public, one aspect of this growth has received little attention: the shocking rise in the number of women in jail.

Women in jail are the fastest growing correctional population in the country—increasing 14-fold between 1970 and 2014. Yet there is surprisingly little research on why so many more women wind up in jail today. Read more.

Lean In: Seven Tips for Men Who Want to Support Equality

If you want to support your female colleagues, here are seven ways to challenge stereotypes, confront bias, and leverage your expertise and clout to benefit women in your network.

NRCJIW Offers Tip Sheets on Justice-Involved Women

A series of eight Jail Tip Sheets on critical topics facing jails were developed by the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Wowen to facilitate the implementation of gender-informed approaches with women in jail settings.

These tip sheets were developed in response to recommendations from participants at the Women in Jails Summit held in October 2014. During the summit, jail practitioners asked for concise resources or tools that addressed their specific concerns regarding the management of women in jail settings and provided links to additional resources.

Click here to view the tip sheets and for links to additional resources.

NJLCA Offers Resources Regarding Female Inmates

The National Jail Leadership Command Academy provides its graduates with a list of resources regarding administrative segregation, budget, data analysis in jails, internal jail culture, jail staffing, mental health and jails, and more.

Here are links to the resources regarding female inmates:
Gender Responsive Discipline and Sanctions Policy Guide
Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Women Offenders
Gender Response Strategies for Jails
Gender Injustice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reform for Girls
The Mental Health Crisis Facing Women in Prison
The Particular Challenges of Guarding Women Prisoners
Women’s Pathways to Jail: Examining Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Abuse

Time: Melinda Gates Investing $1 Billion in Women's Potential

Over the next 10 years, Melinda Gates is committing $1 billion to expanding women’s power and influence in the United States. Her company, Pivotal Ventures, will put resources behind new and established partners taking innovative and diverse approaches to expanding women’s power and influence.

"I want to see more women in the position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives," Gates says. "I believe that women’s potential is worth investing in—and the people and organizations working to improve women’s lives are, too." Read more.

National Center for State Courts: Women and Girls in the Justice System

Both the juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems were developed with men and boys in mind. While girls and women are a smaller percentage of the justice system population, they have different histories and needs that must be addressed. Read more.