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Women in Illinois are incarcerated at record rates and at enormous cost to the state. Most are jailed for nonviolent offenses and have experienced trauma, addiction, and economic and social barriers. As a result of women's ncarceration, their children are more likely to have sychological health issues, to be placed in foster care, and to engage in delinquent behavior.Many of these women do not receive treatment and therefore become repeat offenders or parole violators. This trend is likely to be reversed if women are provided with the services they need instead of incarceration. These services include educational services, drug treatment, family reunification services, and individual and family counseling. Research shows that addressing women's multiple needs through well-designed programs, such as "Families Building Communities" in Chicago and "Positive Options, Referrals and Alternatives" in Springfield, can save the state money and help women recover.
On October 31, 2001, 60 members of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless conducted in-depth, one-on-one surveys with 235 of the 1,117 women detained that day in Cook County Jail.These surveys were designed and conducted to gain an understanding of women's lives that may dictate and support policy initiatives and further direct service providers in assisting those in need. This study was conducted to document the lives of women detained in Cook County Jail and promote understanding of their many experiences. It reveals a great deal about the lives, current circumstances, and future hopes of 235 women detained that day.
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