Friday, August 16, 2013

Ohio prisons increasingly fill up with white women, perhaps due to harsher rural sentencing

"White women, many from rural Ohio, are the fastest growing population in Ohio prisons. In fact, they made up 80 percent of the female felons sentenced to prison between June 30, 2012, and July 1, or fiscal year 2013, according to state records," John Caniglia reports for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland. White women made up 55 percent of the state female prison population in 2003, and 43 percent in 1998. Overall, their share of the population rose 37 percentage points, or 86 percent from 1998 to 2012. Nationally, the numbers rose 48 percent from 2000-2009, a shorter time span. (Associated Press photo)

Mike Huff, a criminal defense lawyer, told Caniglia, "I tend to believe that judges in the more rural counties tend to sentence people more harshly. In rural counties, it is a big deal when someone gets caught making methamphetamine or selling drugs. People talk about it. They don't want that stuff around. Small newspapers and radio stations report it. It's big news, and judges realize that.''
James Austin, a national researcher who studied women in Ohio prisons through a grant from the U.S. Justice Department, told Caniglia, "That's the thing that jumped out at me. The numbers weren't coming from Cleveland or Columbus, but from predominantly white, rural counties. In smaller counties, there are, generally, fewer programs for women." (Read more)

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