Why It Matters

There are now over 200,000 women in prison or jail in the United States, an increase of almost 800% in the last three decades – to the point where the United States now incarcerates more women than any other country. Around one-third of these women ending up back behind bars within three years of their release.

In 2013, Hope Rises completed a needs assessment of downtown Little Rock communities. While crime, violence, poverty, unemployment, lack of housing, food insecurity, and poor mental and physical health affect many residents in Little Rock, these quality of life issues have an amplified effect for women with criminal justice involvement. The research revealed:

  • Women face a unique pathway to crime that differs from men
    • Most often based on substance abuse and the survival of abuse and poverty (1,2)
    • Often unaddressed in the predominately male-dominated correctional setting or by reentry service providers (2)
    • “One-size fits all” reentry programs not tailored to address the unique and complex needs of women (2)
  • Women comprise a rapidly growing subset of incarcerated and recently released individuals
    • From 2000 – 2010, Arkansas’ population of female inmates increased by over 50% (2)
  • Quality of life issues hit previously incarcerated women particularly hard
    • Significantly under-served for their social, economic, and physical and mental health needs (3)
  • Women’s post-incarceration experiences often guided by life histories of: (1,2)
    • Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
    • Poor mental and physical health
    • Abuse of substances, often to self-medicate mental health issues
    • Economically disadvantaged, often with few skills and irregular work histories
    • The expectation, possibility, and/or pursuit of returning to full-time parenting
  • Little Rock lacks comprehensive gender-responsive, pre-release and re-entry services that address the unique needs of female ex-offenders (3)
  • Gender-specific needs left untreated significantly increase women’s odds of recidivism (2)

Hope Rises has created a holistic program designed to assist women with criminal justice involvement in redefining their lives to live to their full potential. We operate under the knowledge that the first six months to one year following the release from incarceration is a critical time for recidivism and a critical time for supportive services and monitoring.

Why This Matters to Businesses

  • American consumers feel companies should address and support social issues in their local communities.
  • Businesses that employ previously incarcerated women with felony convictions in Arkansas are eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. The Tax Credit is up to $2,400 for each new hire (http://www.arkansas.gov/esd/Employers/WOTC.htm).
  • Individuals participating in comprehensive reentry programs are more likely to successfully reintegrate back into the community, therefore reducing recidivism and the financial burden imposed on taxpayers.
  • Individuals participating in comprehensive reentry programs make better employees, because they receive the support needed to reduce risk of reincarceration.
  • Residential programs, like Hope Rises Wellness & Recovery House, reduce the risk of homelessness which impacts our neighborhood quality especially in the downtown Little Rock area.

1 Berman, J. 2005. Women Offender Transition and Reentry: Gender Responsive Approaches to Transitioning Women Offenders from Prison to the Community. Washington, DC: National Institute of Corrections

2 Holtfreter, K., and Wattanaporn, K. (2014). The Transition from Prison to Community Initiative: An Examination of Gender Responsiveness for Female Offender Reentry. Criminal Justice and Behavior, v. 41

3 Brophy, K., Amico, M., and Jones, A. 2013. The State of the Re-Entry Service Community in Little Rock: White Paper of Analysis and Recommendations

4 Deschenes, E.P., Owen, B., and Crow, J. 2007. Recidivism among female prisoners: Secondary analysis of the 1994 BJS recidivism data