Women Beyond Bars: An exploration of the causes and effects of the mass incarceration of women in West Virginia



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In 1989, 80 women were sentenced to prison in West Virginia. At that time, women served their time at Pruntytown Correctional Center in Taylor County. The facility was a men’s prison where quarters were adapted for the small number of West Virginia women with felony convictions. By 2003, 14 years later, the state had spent $24.5 million to open Lakin Correctional Center, a maximum security prison with 302 beds, to deal with the rapidly growing number of women serving prison sentences in the state.

Three years later, in 2006, the state spent another $6.2 million to expand the facility to 462 beds. In 2016, 622 women were sentenced to prison, an increase of more than 677% from 1989.

Though Lakin expanded to 584 beds in 2019, it was not large enough to hold the 771 women serving time. More than a quarter of those women were incarcerated at regional jails without access to trade skills development and some rehabilitation programs. Less than half the women at Lakin have a high school diploma; a majority are mothers, and 104 have given birth there since 2006.


mass incarceration, West Virginia, women