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Incarcerated women face numerous challenges related to healthcare and reentry, necessitating tailored support and interventions. These women often have high rates of trauma in their backgrounds, including domestic violence, sexual abuse, and addiction. The provision of comprehensive and well-coordinated medical and behavioral healthcare, as well as attending to their other needs is essential to insure optimal reentry back into their community.

Despite being just 6.8 per of the total inmate population in the United States, the female inmate population in the United States is six times higher than it was just 40 years ago. In New Jersey, the number of women in prisons had increased more than fourfold, from 176 in 1978 to 774 in 2017. In New Jersey jails, this number has increased sevenfold, from 175 in 1970 to 1,268 in 2015. A majority of women who enter the prison system have some history of substance abuse and/or addiction. These national statistics are on trend with the data collected by NJRC, which found that 72.5 percent of participants struggled with addiction before or during their time served.

To address systemic issues that court involved women face, the New Jersey Reentry Corporation created The Women’s Project in 2020, beginning with the Commission on Reentry Services for Women. It is the mission of The Women’s Project to serve as the link to leaders in the State Legislature, Houses of Worship, nonprofit community, healthcare community, legal community, and beyond, providing women that have been released from state prison, county jail, and addiction treatment with critically-needed services. The ability to serve as a bridge to ensure that women leaving institutions are receiving valued, needed essentials, including legal and medical services, identification, housing referrals, and workforce training and employment, is integral to The Women’s Project.

Working collaboratively with physicians, advocates, and policymakers, The Women’s Project’s peer-reviewed articles, videos, and presentations are used to inform policies, practices, and procedures regarding the care of court-involved women, both within New Jersey and beyond.

The Women's Project in New Jersey has made significant progress in addressing healthcare and reentry challenges for incarcerated women. Through comprehensive medical and behavioral services, the project prioritizes mental health, addiction treatment, and education. Initiatives like financial literacy, entrepreneurial training, and employment opportunities help overcome employment barriers. These efforts underscore the significance of tailored interventions for empowering incarcerated women during reentry.

The support of partners such as RWJBarnabas Health, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Center, Malo Smiles USA, and the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation has enabled us to directly attend to women program participants’ medical, mental, and behavioral health needs at the state-of-the-art Francine A. LeFrak Wellness Center. The convenience of having a healthcare facility within an NJRC site that provides free services and linkages is crucial to increasing court-involved women’s access to healthcare.