fb pixel

Log In


Reset Password

What now'

About this series

During 1985, 596 women logged time behind the heavy metal doors of the Jackson County Jail. This year, that number is likely to be more than three times higher. In Jackson County as in many parts of the country, the number of women in jail is growing ' growing more quickly, even, than the number of men behind bars.

In a series ending today, reporter Jill Briskey looks into the trend and explores how it is affecting the county's approach to women who commit crimes.

Related story:

? Different needs for female inmates

A recent study conducted for Jackson County by Justice Research Association Inc. showed that female offenders face a complex set of issues that are not being addressed in Jackson County. Female and male offenders have many of the same needs, such as housing and job training, but there are distinctions.

Substance abuse

' Female offenders are more likely than men to abuse narcotics and alcohol.

Employment

' Female offenders are more likely to be unemployed before incarceration than male offenders, and are more likely to be on public assistance.

History of victimization

' Incarcerated women are more likely to have histories of victimization, including sexual and physical abuse, than male inmates.

Children

' Most female offenders have children at the time of their incarceration. Incarcerated women are more likely than men to have been living with children at the time of their incarceration.

Mental health

' Female offenders are more likely to have mental health issues than male offenders. — — — Women who leave jail in Jackson County often have one question:

The answer is limited by a lack of resources, but officials are working on it

Last of two parts

Stepping outside the doors of the Jackson County Jail, Medford resident Sonja Maria Frankenberg paused to light up her first cigarette in 15 days.

Frankenberg, 30, admitted she's lucky ' she has a home and family waiting for her. Most female offenders are homeless, and services to ease their transition back into the community are few and far between.

A lot of them don't have no safe places. They go right back to where they started, said Frankenberg, who violated her parole by testing positive for drugs. We need something just for us once we're let out. The men have it, but we don't.

It's a situation the county is working diligently to correct, said Community Justice Director Bob Grindstaff.

For women, it's jail to the community with nothing in between, Grindstaff said. The needs of women offenders are not being met in the county.

That could be changing, however.

A study completed this year established the need for a work camp for women, and now the county has begun working toward building it and a halfway house to lodge women as they come out of jail.

Both projects are in early stages.

We're in the early process of putting something together, Grindstaff said. Maybe (a halfway home will be built) in a year or two.

It's unclear how many women serving time locally are homeless, but county officials say the number is high.

The county already has three halfway houses, but they are designed for men. Occasionally, women are allowed to stay at one of the homes, but no children are permitted. An estimated 80 percent of female offenders are the primary caretakers of children.

Homeless female offenders are left with three options, said senior deputy parole and probation officer Jarren Atkinson. They can stay at homeless shelters, move into cheap Medford motels, where police say drug use is rampant, or hook up with friends who abuse narcotics.

It's a catalyst that keeps them going through the system, she said. It's a reoccurring theme.

Tentative plans for the halfway house for women and children call for a 10-person facility. Grindstaff said staff is searching for a suitable piece of county-owned property. The project has no funding so far, but Grindstaff said the county may seek a grant.

The county laid its plans for the work camp after commissioning a &

36;13,000 needs assessment and feasibility study earlier this year from Justice Research Association Inc., a federal oversight group for the National Institute of Corrections.

The document overwhelmingly supported the concept of building the camp at an estimated cost of &

36;500,000. No money has been budgeted for the project, and no site has been chosen.

The report encouraged the county to build a facility that would provide female offenders with a degree of privacy, counseling and classroom quarters and a supportive environment for child visitation. It also recommends that the county assign a nurse practitioner at the camp because women, statistically, have greater health care needs than men.

There aren't enough female offenders in Jackson County for the work camp to become self supporting. Grindstaff said it probably would operate similarly to the men's camp.

More than 75 percent of the Jackson County Community Justice Work Center's &

36;2.2 million budget comes from contracts for labor from other agencies. In addition, male offenders from the work center perform &

36;2.5 million worth of services to the county annually.

Work camps or work programs for female inmates are common in larger counties.

In 323,950-resident Lane County, for example, female inmates participate in work crews alongside men as long as they are considered low risks to the community.

Eugene's Community Corrections Center, a low-security jail where inmates learn how to get and keep jobs has 116 beds, 26 of them for women.

Farther north, more than 90 percent of the female inmates at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville work, said Nathan Cantlin, who supervises the women.

Their tasks vary from carpentry and construction work to caregiving.

They perform very well with what we give them, he said. They do anything and everything.

Sonja Marie Frankenberg is released from the Jackson County Jail after serving time for a drug-related parole violation. She says a lot of female inmates have no place to go after jail but back to situations that get them in trouble. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell