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01 July, 2016

America’s female prison population has grown 800%

Holly Harris may wear cowboy boots to work, but the Kentucky mom and Executive Director for the US Justice Action Network (USJAN) is far from your average southerner.

This past Saturday, June 25th, Harris talked about her work to a group of journalists and bloggers who traveled to Washington D.C. from different corners of the country to hear from leaders of the criminal justice reform movement. Harris was the first speaker at FreedomWorks’ #JusticeForAll event, and as the leader of USJAN, she set the tone for what turned out to be a fascinating conference.

The veteran litigator opened her speech by outlining USJAN’s goals, explaining the organization believes “our [criminal] code just doesn’t make sense.” That’s why their “goal is to shrink criminal codes” and “get rid of these unfair, unnecessary duplicative and inconsistent laws.” But it was something else she told the crowd a few minutes later that got attendees worked up. “The fastest growing segment of the prison population in America,” Harris articulated, “is women … and nobody is talking about that.

According to the Families Against Mandatory Minimums Foundation (FAMM), the female prison population in the United States has grown by over 800 percent in the last 30 years, while the male population grew by 416 percent during the same period. Despite this staggering growth, violent criminals are not being sent to prison in droves. Instead, nearly two-thirds of female prisoners are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses.

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