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Data and Issue Briefs


Below are data and issue briefs regarding women and gender expansive New Yorkers experiences at the Rose M. Singer Center and other correctional facilities in the state. Please use these resources to help advocate for the closure of the Rose M. Singer Center and decarcerate the female and gender expansive pretrial population below 100.

Over time, additional data and issue briefs will be added. For more information regarding data and policy recommendations please email Jordyn Rosenthal at Jordyn@wcja.org.

Download PDF versions here!
-Data Brief: March 2021
– Data Brief: November 2020 
– Issue Brief: Pregnancy in Jails and Prisons

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Data Snapshot March 2021: Women & Gender Expansive New Yorkers at Rikers

The City of New York has the power to close Rikers Island before the deadline of 2027. The Women’s Community Justice Association implores the city to close the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC) sooner than the anticipated deadline. It is known that 80% of women in jail are mothers and 86% have experienced interpersonal violence throughout their lives. RMSC fails these women, their families, and the people of New York City. We believe that its replacement should house no more than 100 people total. 

On March 16th, 2021 there were 276 women and gender expansive people detained or incarcerated on Rikers Island. 92% (253) of these individuals were held at the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC) the rest were detained in other facilities on Rikers.

About 33% (91) of people were charged in Manhattan followed by 19% (52) in Brooklyn, 15% (42) in Queens, 13% (36) in the Bronx, and 5% (15) in Staten Island. It should be noted that 14% (40) had no data available.

A majority of people were pretrial, being held on bond or remand. Only 42% (115) of all people held were given bail and 8 people who were given bail were not also given bond. Their bail ranged from $1 to $100,000,00 with an average of $84,461.54 The average length of stay to date for pre-trial individuals on 3/16/21 was 228.6 days or about 7.5 months. During this time only 13 (4.7%) people were sentenced meaning they have been convicted of a crime. Also at this time 53 (19%) of the people in custody also had a parole warrant but that information is not mutually exclusive with custody status.

There were over 50 types of charges and a majority of people (24%) were charged with a B Felony. The most common charges by behavioral category were property charges (66) followed by homicide (65)  and then person (44). About 14% (39) of people were charged with a ‘A’ Misdemeanors, of those charged 16 were given bail and 14 were given bond, and 6 people offered bail or bond with ‘A’ Misdemeanors had a parole violation. This is an example of 10 people who are unable to be in their community because of their inability to afford their freedom. We believe this type of analysis is needed in order to decarcerate and keep the female and gender expansive pretrial population below 100.

(For full list of charges please see the chart Number of Women Per Charge of March 16th, 2021)

Data Points From Correctional Health About Women & Gender Expansive New Yorkers on Rikers

  • 23% have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness (SMI)
  • 18%  receive medicated assisted treatment (MAT)
  • 21%  identified as being homeless/ having unstable housing upon admittance to Rikers
  • 32% identified as being homeless/ having unstable housing upon release from Rikers

Policy Recommendations for the City of New York

  • Close the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island 
    • Urge judges to implement the new State pre-trial laws in ways that are consistent with their intent, including utilizing the least restrictive means to ensure return to court, and considering ability to pay when bail is set. 
    • Appoint and re-appoint judges who are committed to implementing the new State pre-trial laws in ways that are consistent with their intent, and who are committed to protecting the presumption of innocence for all people
    • Release all women and gender expansive people being detained pre-trial
    • Invest in funding more gender specific and trauma informed alternatives to incarceration and detention, with no exclusions based on severity of charge
    • Immediately identify a stand-alone site in a central location to relocate a much smaller number of detained women, under 100, to enable the closure of RMSC before the end of this administration.
  • Invest in healthcare and housing
    • Expand the number of justice impacted supportive housing beds (JISH) and allocate a percentage explicitly for women – including honoring the 320 additional beds promised in 2019 and ensuring adequate spots for women and gender non-conforming people
    • Pass Intro 2047, which prohibits housing discrimination in rentals, leases, subleases, or occupancy agreements in New York City, on the basis of arrest or criminal record.
    • Increase CityFEPs vouchers to market rate
    • Purchase vacant hotels to create permanent, deeply affordable housing 
    • Fund expanded field-based and center-based mental health treatment
    • Support quality harm reduction and substance addiction services in the community 
  • Support data consistency protocols and improve data transparency
    • DOCS should adopt data collection protocols that: 1) Record and responsibly provide a means for tracking one person across the system, and their demographics. And 2) ensure data is not overwritten as cases move through the system. This means keeping past records as well as the present.
    • Link records systems across agencies including but not limited to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Department of Homeless Services

Data Snapshot November 2020: Women & Gender Expansive New Yorkers at Rikers

The City of New York has the power to close Rikers Island before the deadline of 2027. The Women’s Community Justice Association implores the city to close the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC) sooner than 2027. We believe that as few people should be detained pretrial as possible and a replacement facility for women and gender expansive people should have a maximum occupancy of 100. It is known that 80% of women in jail are mothers and 86% have experienced interpersonal violence throughout their lives. Rikers and more specifically, RMSC fails these women, their families, and the people of New York City.

On November 6th, 2020 there were 219 women and gender expansive people detained or incarcerated on Rikers Island. 94% (206) of these individuals were held at the RMSC and the rest were detained in other facilities across Rikers. A majority (88%) of them were pretrial, being held on bond (42%) or were remanded (46%). Their bond ranged from $1 to $1,000,000 with an average of $66,870.50. The average length of stay for all pre-trial individuals on 11/6/20 was 111.5 days or about 3.6 months. We also know that 7 (3.2%) people were sentenced to state time and 34 (15%) had a parole warrant.

People had a range of 1 to 10 charges against them with over 55% (121) having 1 charge and 10% (25) having 4 or more charges. The most common charges by behavioral category were property charges (64) followed by homicide (57)  and then person (36). There were over 50 types of charges and about 30% (67) were charged with a B Felony followed by 17% (38) with a A Felony. About 6% (13) of people were charged with a ‘A’ Misdemeanors, of those charged with misdemeanors 85% (11) were pretrial and 5 were given bail or bond, and 1 person of the 5 offered bail or bond had a parole violation. This is an example of 4 people who are unable to be in their community because of their inability to afford their freedom. We believe this type of analysis is needed in order to decarcerate and keep the female and gender expansive pretrial population below 100. 

(For full list of charges please see the chart Number of Women Per Charge on November 6th, 2020)

General Data Points From Correctional Health About Women & Gender Expansive New Yorkers on Rikers

  • 23% have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness (SMI)
  • 18%  receive medicated assisted treatment (MAT)
  • 21%  identified as being homeless/ having unstable housing upon admittance to Rikers
  • 32% identified as being homeless/ having unstable housing upon release from Rikers

Policy Recommendations for the City of New York

  • Close the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island 
    • Urge judges to implement the new State pre-trial laws in ways that are consistent with their intent, including utilizing the least restrictive means to ensure return to court, and considering ability to pay when bail is set. 
    • Appoint and re-appoint judges who are committed to implementing the new State pre-trial laws in ways that are consistent with their intent, and who are committed to protecting the presumption of innocence for all people
    • Release all women and gender expansive people being detained pre-trial
    • Invest in funding more gender specific and trauma informed alternatives to incarceration and detention, with no exclusions based on severity of charge
    • Immediately identify a stand-alone site in a central location to relocate a much smaller number of detained women, under 100, to enable the closure of RMSC before the end of this administration.
  • Invest in healthcare and housing
    • Expand the number of justice impacted supportive housing beds (JISH) and allocate a percentage explicitly for women – including honoring the 320 additional beds promised in 2019 and ensuring adequate spots for women and gender non-conforming people
    • Pass Intro 2047, which prohibits housing discrimination in rentals, leases, subleases, or occupancy agreements in New York City, on the basis of arrest or criminal record.
    • Increase CityFEPs vouchers to market rate
    • Purchase vacant hotels to create permanent, deeply affordable housing 
    • Fund expanded field-based and center-based mental health treatment
    • Support quality harm reduction and substance addiction services in the community 
  • Support data consistency protocols and improve data transparency
    • DOCS should adopt data collection protocols that: 1) Record and responsibly provide a means for tracking one person across the system, and their demographics. And 2) ensure data is not overwritten as cases move through the system. This means keeping past records as well as the present.
    • Link records systems across agencies including but not limited to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Department of Homeless Services

Additional Graphs & Resources


Issue Brief: Pregnancy and Birthing In Jails and Prisons

Women are the most rapidly expanding population in the US corrections system. As a result, pregnancy and childbirth within jails and prisons has become an increasingly important issue. Birthing people in prison and jail face a myriad of issues related to breastfeeding, the possibility of being shackled while giving birth, and prenatal care, as well as the trauma of being separated from their newborns. This brief includes information about Federal, State, and Local correctional settings as it relates to birthing people and prenatal care. 

According to Johns Hopkins University, 4% of women entering US state prisons from 2016-2017 were pregnant, a total of 1496 pregnant women, with 800 women giving birth while in custody. In the same time period, 3% of women entering US jails were pregnant (1622 women). Yet, there is alarmingly little regulation, information, and transparency to support people who are pregnant in carceral facilities, or to ensure that they are receiving proper nutrition, medical care, and treatment. There is no public data regarding the number of birthing people on Rikers Island or in New York State Correctional Facilities. 

Only 11 prisons currently allow breastfeeding, and 5 jails allow breastfeeding and/or pumping in the United States. This prevents people from making autonomous choices regarding their bodies and how to provide nutrition to their children. The Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island in New York City allows those in their nursery program (which has 25 slots) to breastfeed, but one must apply and be accepted to participate in this program. Additionally, Bedford Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in New York, has the country’s oldest nursery program which allows children to remain with their mothers until they are 18 months old, but which individuals can be ejected from based on behavioral violations. These include falling asleep with one’s child, which is seen as a safety issue. Breastfeeding is allowed in Bedford’s nursery program, though they are not provided with breast pumps which might make the process easier.  Additionally, many facilities have regulations prohibiting physical contact that prevent individuals from breastfeeding visiting children. 

Currently 28 states (including New York) have laws preventing the shackling of pregnant people, though only some only bar shackling during childbirth. However, even in New York State, if an officer deems a pregnant person to be a threat to herself or others, they may be restrained. This practice is not only inhumane, but goes against the recommendations of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Prenatal care is also an area of concern within facilities. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, “All U.S. prisons and jails are required to provide prenatal care under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, but no detailed federal standards have been set to ensure that women are actually receiving the care they need.” The Pregnancy In Prison Statistics (PIPS) Project found that only 50% of pregnant women in state prison, and 46% in federal prison, reported receiving some form of prenatal care. 31 states lack any policy on nutrition for incarcerated pregnant people, who need approximately 300 extra calories each day, and have additional dietary restrictions and recommendations. There is little available data on prenatal care being provided in jails. The PIPS Project authors note, “Filling this gap in data from jails is essential to understanding the true prevalence of pregnancy among incarcerated women, because the differences between prisons and jails affect health care delivery.” New York State does not currently provide screening and treatment for high-risk pregnancies within its facilities, which is potentially detrimental to the health of both birthing people and their future offspring. Research shows that a significant number of birthing people in jails and prisons have previous experience of trauma, poverty, substance use and poor medical care that makes their potential for complicated pregnancy outcomes even more likely. This makes screening for high-risk pregnancies even more essential within facilities than in the general population.

In July of 2021, Minnesota became the first state to adopt the Health Start Act, which allows the Commissioner of Correction to place people who are pregnant or have recently given birth in community-based alternatives to incarceration for their pregnancy and at least one year post-birth, in order to allow mothers and children to bond during this critical developmental stage.  New York City Council has begun to address the needs of birthing people with a bill passed in August of 2021 that requires the Department of Corrections to implement a doula program, in which pregnant people will receive doula services twice per week, as well as during labor and delivery. While we are in favor of this bill, and any others that will lighten the burden of pregnancy for birthing people within facilities, WCJA believes that this is not nearly enough. In order to truly aid pregnant people in city jails, it is essential that New York City diverts this vulnerable population from facilities and adopts Alternatives to Detention that would allow pregnant people to give birth and bond with their newborns at home where they belong.

Recommendations

  • Adopt Alternatives to Detention for pregnant people who are entering the justice system in New York State, rather than pre-trial detention.
  • For all states, including New York, to follow Minnesota’s lead and adopt The Healthy Start Act, which allows allows the Commissioner of Corrections to place pregnant people and those who have recently given birth in alternative to incarceration programs for their child’s first year of life in order to allow parent and child to bond outside of a facility setting while receiving treatment and programming.
  • Have monitoring boards responsible for ensuring that pregnant people who are being detained or incarcerated are receiving appropriate prenatal care. 
  • Have an onsite OB-GYN 24/7 at women’s facilities to provide care.
  • Prohibit the shackling of pregnant people at all costs, even at the discretion of DOC staff.
  • New York State must adopt screening measures and treatment protocol for high-risk pregnancies.
  • Prohibit newborns from being expelled from facility nursery programs as a disciplinary consequence of their mothers’ actions.
  • Ensure that Corrections Officers working with women are mandated to attend trainings on pregnancy and the needs of pregnant people, as well as trauma-informed communication training.
  • Ensure that accurate data is collected and reported on pregnant people in US jails, as well as State and Federal prisons.