Skip to navigationSkip to content
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
Under the radar.

Hillary Clinton takes a stand for women in prison

By Hanna Kozlowska

Hillary Clinton has taken a lot of flack for supporting policies of her husband that contributed to America’s mass incarceration crisis, as well as for accepting money from the private prison industry.

From the beginning of her presidential campaign, she has been trying to distance herself from the former Clinton administration’s policies, promising to make mass incarceration reform a priority of her administration. Today, in an op-ed for CNN, she outlined her vision for reforming the way the women are treated by the criminal justice system.

“Mass incarceration’s impact on women and their families has been particularly acute — and it doesn’t get the attention it deserves,” writes Clinton. The US is home to 5% of the world’s women, but imprisons 30% of the women incarcerated worldwide.

Clinton calls for reforming policing and sentencing, as well as promoting alternatives to incarceration to lighten the burden placed on families. Five million American children have experienced the trauma of parental incarceration. But she also promises to focus on the unique needs of women in prison:

I will institute gender-responsive policies in the federal prison system and encourage states to do the same—because women follow different paths to crime than men, and face different risks and challenges both inside and outside the prison walls, and every part of the justice system, from sentencing to the conditions of confinement to re-entry services, should reflect women’s unique needs.

Citing research, Clinton emphasizes that most women are in prison for non-violent drug and property crimes. Many of them had been dependent on drugs, and many came from abusive homes or relationships.

Women face often very different challenges than men do in prison or jail. They need access to reproductive care, which is often substandard. In many states, incarcerated women who are pregnant are shackled, often on the way to the hospital.