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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

O n October 31, 2001, 60 members of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless conducted in-depth, one-on-one surveys with 235 of the 1,117 women detained that day in Cook County Jail.

These surveys were designed and conducted to gain an understanding of women’s lives that may dictate and support policy initiatives and further direct service providers in assisting those in need. This study was conducted to document the lives of women detained in Cook County Jail and promote understanding of their many experiences. It reveals a great deal about the lives, current circumstances, and future hopes of 235 women detained that day.

RESULTS Study participants were women present on the specified date the surveys were administered. This sample does not represent all women detained in the jail on October 31, 2001, nor is it a random sample. However, we believe that the collective results display a reliable picture of the lives of women detained in Cook County Jail.

KEY FINDINGS 82 percent of all women detained at Cook County Jail in October 2001 were charged with non-violent offenses.

Of all 235 women surveyed:

  • 45 percent reported being detained two to five times.

  • 82 percent reported being mothers.

  • Women in jail are survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence at two and three times the national average.

  • 54 percent reported being homeless in the 30 days prior to entering Cook County Jail.

    • 13 percent said they were offered assistance finding housing while they were detained in jail.

    • 23 percent of unemployed women said they were not employed because they had no place to live.

    • Women without housing are twice as likely to be detained more than six times.

  • 54 percent said they were not employed in the 30 days prior to entering Cook County Jail.

    • 60 percent of unemployed women stated that substance abuse was a barrier to employment.

    • 36 percent stated they could not get needed help for an alcohol or substance abuse problem.

  • 34 percent were regularly involved in some form of prostitution.

  • 29 percent of women said they had an application denied or were cut-off from government assistance in the 12 months prior to entering jail.

CHICAGO COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS 1

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