Darcie Green, Essie Research Team
Completed surveys from women with incarcerated loved ones*
States and Puerto Rico**
of women were between the ages of 25 and 44
of women identified as “women”
of women identified as “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” or “queer”
identified as “straight”
of women identify as white
as API, Indigenous, Arab/Middle Eastern, or “other”
* We collected 1,992 online surveys and 604 paper surveys.
** The states were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
***The women who responded to our survey represent an overwhelmingly cisgender* and heterosexual demographic. We do not believe that this is representative of women with incarcerated loved ones. We know, from our experiences and the experiences of our friends, families, and communities, that many women identify simply as women, regardless of sex assigned at birth. Furthermore, we know that our research design and outreach process impacted who knew about and had access to our survey. Our research process was far from fully accessible to transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people. In partnership with the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Group in San Francisco, we held one focus group with women who identify along the spectrum of gender.We include many of the analyses from women in that group in this report. And still, we know that the work of gender, race, and criminal justice movements needs to center—and not just consider—the impact of incarceration on transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people.
Twelve percent of women who responded to our survey identified as either “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” or “queer.” The vast majority, 87%, identified as “straight.” Incarceration impacts women who are queer, lesbian, gay, and bisexual in specific ways—from increased barriers to visiting a loved one due to homophobia or laws that limit contact to legally recognized kin. These harms are not adequately addressed in our analysis. Though this report is a first step towards addressing the full extent of mass incarceration as a system of gendered oppression, without understanding the ways in which incarceration is operating to control women who are marginalized by heteronormative conventions and stereotypes, we will not understand how incarceration harms women.
****A little over a third (34%) of women we surveyed identified as Black or African-American; thirty-seven percent identified as white; eighteen percent identified as Latinx. Only 10% of respondents identified as either Asian, Pacific Islander (API), Middle Eastern or Arab, or Indigenous.
While our research was substantially led and informed by Latinx women, our report does not center the ways in which incarceration operates as a continuation of the colonialism, imperialism, and genocide enacted upon Latinx, API, Middle Eastern, Arab, and Indigenous communities.
We therefore do not present this report as a comprehensive analysis of incarceration’s harm to women with incarcerated loved ones, knowing we cannot fully understand incarceration’s harm to all women. We offer this report as an imperfect and hopeful beginning.