Prison Populations Increase

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

Crime numbers nationwide have dropped, so why are our jails more crowded than ever?

New prison statistics show something surprising. The number of female inmates has nearly doubled since 1995, and studies show a large number of those released only wind up back again, so how do we break the cycle?

The female population in the Stephenson County Jail has tripled in the past five years. Sheriff Dave Snyder says on average women now make up 16 percent of the inmate population.

"This just like the males. They're out there and they will commit crimes just as males will," says Stephenson County Sheriff Dave Snyders.

Snyders says this isn't the first time most have been locked up and it probably won't be the last. He believes the increasing numbers are just a sign of the times. More violent crimes are being committed and women are part of them.

"Throughout the nation females are becoming more involved in gangs and in our community here we're seeing more of them involved in drug activity," says Snyders.

But programs at the jail, like one provided and recently expanded at Highland Community College, have helped many women get educated, get their GED and get back on the right path.

"I think education is extremely important in helping someone redirect their life and give them a new focus, a new goal," says Highland Student Services coordinator, Madolyn Griffin.

Griffin says she's seen plenty of success stories, but the key is that inmates really want to change. However, sometimes learning about these programs and what's available outside the cell can help unlock the door to a brighter future.

Winnebago County jailers say there hasn't been a jump in the number of women behind bars recently. On average, the daily count of women locked up is 88. The Rockford Reachout jail ministry provides rehabilitation programs for both women and men inmates.


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