Barriers to reentry and their disparate impact on women


Jesse Kelley
Former Manager, Government Affairs; Manager, Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties

Key Points

Finding stable employment quickly after being released is the best way to decrease recidivism; however, studies have shown that it is more difficult for women to find work, to maintain employment and to be paid equitably. By providing employment opportunities to formerly incarcerated women, business owners can not only improve community safety by reducing recidivism but also make a dramatic impact in the life of a person searching for a second chance.

Women are being arrested and incarcerated at a rapidly increasing rate, but programs tailored to aid in reentry are not being modified to accommodate women. Women are being caught in the web of increasing harsh drug laws and sanctions, so if we can decriminalize non-violent drug offenses to see fewer women being incarcerated and simultaneously improve correctional education to prepare women for reentry, we can set of a system of success.

Women are denied basic healthcare provisions in prison which can lead women to minimize their healthcare needs once released. By treating incarcerated women with dignity and proving basic feminine hygiene products while detained, we can promote the importance of healthcare upon release.


In the last 30 years, the number of women in prison grew at a rate of 1.5 times that of men. Yet despite the fact that they now comprise the most rapidly growing group of ex-offenders in the United States, reentry programs are not being tailored to support their particular needs. While there are some similarities between male and female offenders, there are also circumstances particular to women that not only cause them to run afoul of the law but also then to require additional resources and support to aid in their rehabilitation and eventual reentry to society. For these reasons, by examining barriers with a specific concentration on the female experience, society can begin to help promote healthy and effective community reintegration for formerly incarcerated women.

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