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New Publication: Moving Beyond Incarceration for Women in Massachusetts
NIC News & Updates


From the Wellesley Centers for Women, this 2015 Massachusetts Women’s Justice Network (MWJN) Policy Brief is intended to help policy makers and others understand MWJN’s concerns with the state’s bail and pretrial practices for women and to ensure that they are addressed by current legislative and administrative efforts at pretrial reform. Moving Beyond Incarceration for Women in Massachusetts: The Necessity of Bail/Pretrial Reform provides data on bail and pretrial detention for women in Massachusetts along with some key characteristics of the women involved.  Recommendations for improvements or adjustments to pretrial approaches for are provided.

Pretrial detention data:

  • The annual estimated number of women held in the Awaiting Trial Unit (ATU) increased from 3,075 in 2012 to 3,800 in 2014.
  • In February 2014, 43% of the women imprisoned in MCI-Framingham were held pretrial compared to 36% in 2012.  The overcrowding situation in the ATU was 439% over capacity.
  • In 2012, 36% of the women held in the ATU could not pay bail under $500. Between 77% and 88% of women held in other parts of the state could not pay bail of under $2,000.
  • In 2012, women’s inability to pay bail resulted in an average pretrial stay for women of 60-77 days. In 2014 the average length of stay in the ATU at MCI-F increased to 100 days (2014 data not available for Suffolk County and W.MA WCC).

Key characteristics of pretrial women:

  • 70% of women were mothers and the primary caretakers of their children when they were admitted.
  • Half of the women in the ATU sample were either homeless or had lived with others prior to detention.
  • Over 60% of women reported a substance abuse history, with 80% stating they wanted treatment.
  • Half of the women have a mental health illness. Their diagnoses include Anxiety/PTSD, Schizophrenia, Depression and Bi-Polar Disorder. Almost three quarters of the women had 2-3 diagnoses.

Read the full article (Erika Kates, Ph.D., Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College)


This announcement is available at NIC's Gender-Responsive News for Women and Girls.  Feel free to forward to friends and colleagues.  Subscribe to the newsletter at

For additional resources on Justice-Involved Women go to NIC’s Women Offenders.

Posted Tue, May 5 2015 7:02 AM by Susan Powell


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