“These are debtors’ prisons,” said Lois Ahrens, director of the Real Cost of Prisons Project in Northampton. “The vast majority of women that are held are not dangerous, they are there because they’re poor. A woman who gets picked up for sex work — she doesn’t have $500 or she wouldn’t be on the street.”
Sending local women to a Chicopee jail solves a logistics problem for sheriffs from the Berkshires to Worcester. But having one jail in all of Western Massachusetts for women results in a system that treats women in custody differently than men.
Is it fair?
This is "Sent Away," The Eagle's Eye Team special report on how there are two paths through the criminal justice system, one for men, another for women, raising questions about whether women receive equal access to justice in Western Massachusetts.