Why are our prisons full of domestic violence victims?
The consistent message from experts in this field is clear: as our jails continue to crowd with women, with survivors of abuse, mothers, homeless and Indigenous women, we need to urgently rethink our approach to incarceration and the factors leading to it.
More than a third — 37 per cent — of all female prisoners were on remand, or un-sentenced, and almost half (47 per cent) had been incarcerated previously, rising to 64 per cent for Indigenous women.
Behind these figures, though, is one often-overlooked fact: an overwhelming majority of women in prison are victims of domestic violence, with evidence suggesting between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of incarcerated women have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused as children or adults — an experience experts say frequently leads to their offending and criminalisation.
Over the next few months, ABC News will explore the links between women's imprisonment and domestic violence in a range of diverse communities across Australia in order to better understand the experiences of women hooked in to a system that is difficult to escape. They will unpack the rising rates of incarceration of survivors of abuse, why experts say it is getting worse, and what the possible solutions might be.
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