Since she returned home after incarceration 22 years ago, Celia Colon has turned much of her energy to helping other women rebuild their post-prison lives through her nonprofit Giving Others Dreams. But she says having a record has hindered her forward progress.
Though there are about 1,300 permanent punishments on the books in Illinois — and countless more that aren’t — there are only a handful of ways to get around them. They often involve a complicated mix of paperwork and expenses. The records sealing or expungement process, for example, involves filing a petition in court, costing around $157 per charge.
The reasons women commit crimes are different, and often overlooked, researchers say. And since 58% of incarcerated women are mothers to children under 18, the permanent punishments they face affect not only them, but their entire families.
While the number of women in prisons is relatively small compared to the number of incarcerated men, the rate of female incarceration is on the rise. Black women in particular are overrepresented in the nation’s jails and prisons.