Cheryl Corley

More than 200,000 women and girls are incarcerated in this country — 10,000 of them in federal prisons — and Danielle Metz used to be one of them.

On a sunny January afternoon, Amy Blumenthal drove to her Chicago home after picking up groceries. She turned off a street and into an alley, backed her car into her garage and started unloading the bags.

"All of a sudden, I heard something and looked up and there was a boy with a COVID mask on holding a gun just inches from my face," Blumenthal says. He demanded she hand over her keys. Another young male, also wearing a mask, told her to hurry up.

Updated at 2:14 a.m. ET Wednesday

Editor's note: This story includes information that may be upsetting to some readers.

Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, died by lethal injection early Wednesday after the Supreme Court vacated several lower-court rulings, clearing the way for her to become the first female prisoner to be put to death by the U.S. government since 1953.

Last year, an alarming increase in homicides left communities — often in lockdown — reeling as officials searched for answers. That was evident at lots of news conferences as police officials and mayors in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City rolled out dire news.

At the end of 2020, Chicago police reported more than 750 murders, a jump of more than 50% compared with 2019. By mid-December, Los Angeles saw a 30% increase over the previous year with 322 homicides. There were 437 homicides in New York City by Dec. 20, nearly 40% more than the previous year.

This month's elections, especially in the aftermath of this summer's protests against racial injustice, were seen as a test for criminal justice reforms. This was especially true for so-called progressive district attorneys.

Many policies in the higher-profile cities of Philadelphia, San Francisco and Chicago already had drawn the ire of some in law enforcement, including choosing not to prosecute certain low-level crimes, among other changes.

Those policies appear to be just fine with voters in cities with prosecutors who vowed to continue shaking things up.

Voters this week had their say on what police reform would look like, approving dozens of measures that will begin shaping policies at departments across the country.

This summer's massive protests over police brutality, spurred by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, demanded significant changes in policing.

Those protests have moved some cities and states to "reimagine" what departments could look like through changes in funding and legislation. Some efforts stalled, like in Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed.

For months, protests over the police involved killing of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, George Floyd in Minnesota and others around the country reinvigorated an intense debate over policing. Then when Greg Fischer, mayor of Louisville, Ky., recently announced the city would pay $12 million to Taylor's family and institute a number of police reforms, that highlighted an aspect less discussed — the financial impact of police misconduct on cities and taxpayers.

Across the country, we've seen massive change brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, including a dramatic drop in the overall crime rate.

David Abrams, a University of Pennsylvania law and economics professor, has been keeping an eye on numbers across the country. The website he created details what's been happening with crime in more than 25 major cities during the COVID-19 crisis.

When COVID-19 first hit the United States, it spread through communities of color at alarmingly disproportionate rates.

This was especially true in Chicago. More than 70% of the city's first coronavirus deaths were among African Americans. Those numbers have declined, but black residents continue to die at a rate two to three times higher than the city's white residents. Researchers believe underlying health conditions that are prevalent in Latinx and black communities, such as hypertension and diabetes, make residents there more vulnerable to the disease.

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