An important but sparsely attended conference held in Miami last weekend put the spotlight, finally, on a topic that gets little attention: the plight of women, especially African-American women, who serve time in prison, pay their dues to society, and then try to re-integrate into the community.

One explanation for the silence surrounding this subject is probably the fact that African-American men are so disproportionately locked up behind bars that they are a priority for those who are seeking a less unjust criminal justice system.

But, according to information coming out of the three-day Women’s Networking Conference held June 17-19 at a downtown Miami hotel, the recidivism rate for women is 34 percent—one in three women will return to prison.

The reasons are many and are compounded by the fact that women start off being at a disadvantage in the black community, more often than not having to raise a family with the male nowhere to be seen. They cannot find jobs even when the economy is flourishing and particularly when they re-emerge into society with the “offender” label, and they cannot rent a place to live.

“So you lie or have a friend get you an apartment. That’s not what needs to happen for a woman to be in an area that she can feel safe,” said Marcia Grant, herself an ex-offender and one of the main speakers at the conference.

Grant pointed out that while women might wait for a man to be released, the opposite is not true. Some women who are sent to prison also leave children behind and that affects the next generation.

Of course it goes without saying that the best way to avoid doing anything that runs afoul of the law. But when someone is convicted, sentenced and serves her time, she should have the help she needs to make a fresh start.

These are our mothers and daughters and sisters, whatever other label they may have to bear. We cannot simply continue to shut them out. Ms. Grant, who founded Women in Freedom, deserves to be commended for organizing the conference. Businesses should heed her call to provide jobs for ex-offender women and help them pursue a second chance at making something of themselves.