Keeping Women Out of Jail, One Mother at a Time A special public defenders office set up to help women is keeping families together.

Keeping Women Out Of Jail One Mother At A Time Full
Client Advocate Catherine O’Neill (left) of Still She Rises with her client Linda Meachum. Photo credit: Nissa Rhee.
There are 212,000 women incarcerated in prisons and jails today.

Kami could have walked out of the jail that day if only she could afford the $5,000 bond prescribed by the judge. But without the money, she was stuck behind bars, waiting for the court to decide whether she was guilty. Nationally, women are less likely than men to be able to bond out of jail.

Women behind bars are also more likely to have a history of trauma and abuse and have higher rates of mental health and substance abuse disorders.

For Linda Meachum, that combination meant her fate was all but sealed. The 57-year-old had been in prison twice before and her health was failing. A survivor of domestic violence, she told me she struggled with substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder while living on less than $250 a month.

When the court mandated that she pay the government $40 every month as part of her probation in addition to the court fines of a previous case, she said she reached a breaking point. When Linda stopped paying the court fee, the sheriff issued a warrant for her arrest.

But Linda was one of the lucky ones. She ended up spending just eight days in jail. With the help of Still She Rises,  a mother-focused law firm in Tulsa, she was able to convince the judge to give her a second chance. Since being released in January, she has completed a 60-day rehabilitation program and is doing community service in lieu of paying the court fines. She even has plans to start a prison ministry to help women behind bars.

But not every woman arrested is so lucky. There are 212,000 women incarcerated in prisons and jails today—30 percent of the total number of incarcerated women worldwide. It is time we start hearing their voices and helping them find their way back to their families.