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Task force aims to cut Illinois female prison population in half

They are mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and girlfriends. Many of them are from Chicago, but all of them are locked up in Illinois prisons. They spend time in the state’s correctional system on a wide variety of charges that include drug trafficking and manufacturing, fraud, robbery and sometimes violent crimes as well.

Female inmates are the focus of a proposal by a 100-member all-female task force to cut the number of incarcerated women in Illinois in half in seven years. There are current nearly 2,300 women in state prisons.

A Chicago Tribune article on the proposal notes that the task force is made of experts, prison officials past and present, as well as formerly incarcerated women. Their argument is that society, families and neighborhoods all suffer when women who are often victims of abuse or poverty wind up locked up. After all, 80 percent of the women are mothers – often the primary parent – counted on to raise their kids to become productive adults one day.

The former inmates recently met to discuss the project at Grace House, part of a residential program on the city’s Near West Side. “This is a first in the nation,” said Deanne Benos, a former state corrections official and leader of the effort. “One hundred women, all women, coming together to build and plan and cut the women’s prison population by 50 percent or more.”

We wish them all the best in their efforts. We also want to remind readers that those charged with major felonies can protect their freedom and rights with the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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