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



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Beginning in 2018, Reed College of Media students began investigating the causes and effects of the mass incarceration of women in West Virginia, which incarcerates women at a higher rate than most of the United States. The increasing number of women behind bars takes an economic as well as sociological toll on the state’s communities.

The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation funded the project, which engaged students from both the journalism and strategic communications disciplines in a two-year effort to document the problem of women’s incarceration, offer evidence-based solutions and create awareness that could lead to changes in policy and practice. The results of that work are published at WomenBeyondBars.com.

The women whose portraits are displayed in this collection were all incarcerated at one time. They shared their stories with the project. Scan the QR codes with your phone to launch a video interview and hear more of each woman’s story in her own voice.

In 2019, Women Beyond Bars contributed the West Virginia panel to the Humanities Action Lab’s States of Incarceration Project. Twenty-five Universities in 18 states have engaged students and community partners in exploring the roots of mass incarceration in their states. The hope is that we can start a dialogue about what should happen next.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable to bring the whole SOI national exhibit to our campus. You can learn about mass incarceration in other states and join the larger conversation at StatesOfIncarceration.org.


mass incarceration, West Virginia, women