Dismantling The Sexual Abuse-To-Prison Pipeline: Texas’s Approach

The United States now has more than $19 trillion debt.  With over 2.2 million people incarcerated, the United States has the highest prison population in the World.  With over 1.6 million people incarcerated, China has the second highest prison population in the World.  As the country with the highest prison population, the United States spends billions of dollars each year on prison cost, which continues to contribute to the United States debt.  As a result of the United States debt and its relation to money spent on incarceration, Republicans and Democrats are working together in the federal government and state governments to decrease the prison population.  Since 2007, several states have passed comprehensive, data-driven reforms designed to reduce recidivism and incarceration rates and to reduce new spending on prisons. For example, state governments are giving school districts the option to eliminate zero-tolerance policies in school discipline because of the recent research showing that zero-tolerance policies create a “School-to-Prison Pipeline.” In October 2015, the federal government took an unprecedented step by releasing 6,000 prisoners due to sentencing disparities in drug laws.  On November 2, 2015, the National Bar Association partnered with the White House using funds from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to help expunge or seal residents’ records who are under the age of 24. Another equally important, comprehensive data driven reform that the United States can use to decrease the prison population is by stopping the criminalization of girls who have been victims of sexual abuse.  One way of doing this is by recognizing that “gender neutral” laws fail to take into account social norms among genders.  Despite the fact that most laws in the United States are “gender neutral” on its face, sexually abused females represent a small fraction of the United States population while representing a disproportionately higher rate of the United States incarcerated population than their male counterparts and females who have not been sexually abused.