V-Day’s 2018-2019 Spotlight, created in collaboration with formerly incarcerated women and activists, will focus on Women in Prisons and Jails, Detention Centers, and Formerly Incarcerated Women. A direct connection exists between violence and abuse done to women and girls and the risk that those women and girls will be directly impacted by incarceration. In the U.S., 86% of women in prison were sexually and/or physically abused prior to incarceration, as reported by The Vera Institute for Justice in 2017. In the aftermath of abuse, trauma can lead to substance abuse and addiction, which can easily become a pathway to more violence, crime and/or incarceration.
This year V-Day’s Spotlight will include advocates for decarceration of women in prison and for programs in prisons, jails and detention centers whose goal is to help them process their experiences and heal. These advocates acknowledge, as do many in the decarceration movement, that the past violence and poverty experienced by women is often a direct pipeline to incarceration. The socio-economic forces that underlie women’s incarceration are troubling and have a damaging and lasting impact on families and communities.
Most women in prison would not be there if there were adequate resources in their own communities that provided education, jobs, mental health, and physical health treatment; if the issues they face were framed as structural racism and poverty; if programs inside prisons acknowledged women’s past experiences with violence and offered resources to process and heal from those experiences.
As part of this year’s V-Day Spotlight, we will call for an end to the punishment paradigm, for replacing the current punitive model with a public health and a restorative justice approach. Through this Spotlight, we seek to bring higher ethical standards of treatment to the incarcerated population while bringing attention to the racism, poverty, and violence that has led to the incarceration of many women in general, and women of color in particular.