The Guardian had a piece the other day on how big of an issue this is:
In late January 2017, Alexander was freed from the shackles of her ankle monitor after two years of house arrest and three years of incarceration. Her freedom was secured through good lawyering and a national participatory legal defense organizing campaign.
Alexander’s tortuous journey through the criminal punishment system began in 2010, when she was confronted by her estranged husband in her home after having just given birth to her third child, a little girl, nine days earlier. Alexander used a gun that she was licensed to own and fired a single warning shot into the air to ward off her abusive husband, who admitted in a subsequent deposition to having abused every woman he had ever been partnered with (except for one).
Black women have been excluded from definitions of 'respectable' and/or 'proper' womanhood, sexuality and beauty
For this, a jury found her guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon following a 12-minute deliberation. It was that deadly weapon charge that prosecutors used to recommend that Marissa be sentenced under Florida’s 10-20 law to a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years. The judge, who had previously ruled that Marissa was ineligible to invoke the “stand your ground” defense because she didn’t appear afraid, said that his hands were tied by the law and ratified the 20-year sentence.
While self-defense laws are interpreted generously when applied to white men who feel threatened by men of color, they are applied very narrowly to women and gender non-conforming people, and particularly women and gender non-conforming people of color trying to protect themselves in domestic violence and sexual assault cases. Black women have been excluded from definitions of “respectable” and/or “proper” womanhood, sexuality and beauty, influencing how their right to bodily autonomy – and agency – is viewed.
In 2017, there were 219,000 women in US prisons and jails, most of them poor and of color. In 2014, according to the Sentencing Project, black non-Hispanic females had an imprisonment rate over twice that of white non-Hispanic females.
Sociologist Beth Richie has suggested that a key to responding to women in conflict with the law is understanding their status as crime victims. Multiple studies indicate that between 71% and 95% of incarcerated women have experienced physical violence from an intimate partner. In addition, many have experienced multiple forms of physical and sexual abuse in childhood and as adults. This reality has been termed the “abuse-to-prison” pipeline.
These numbers are high because survivors are systematically punished for taking action to protect themselves and their children while living in unstable and dangerous conditions. Survivors are criminalized for self-defense, failing to control abusers’ violence, migration, removing their children from situations of abuse, being coerced into criminalized activity and securing resources needed to live day to day while suffering economic abuse.