Content categorized as 'Correctional' is limited in scope to the US Correctional Industry. It does not include cross-industry topics that affect multiple United States industries or areas of study and does not reach internationally.
There has been growing acknowledgment among scholars, prison staff, and policy-makers that gender-informed thinking should feed into penal policy but must be implemented holistically if gains are to be made in reducing trauma, saving lives, ensuring emotional wellbeing, and promoting desistance from crime. This means that not only healthcare services and psychology programs must be sensitive to individuals’ trauma histories but that the architecture and design of prisons should also be sympathetic, facilitating, and encouraging trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive practices within.
At the end of 2016, there were 111,616 women in prisons across the United States, a 742% increase from the 13,258 women in prisons in 1980. The United States has 4% of the world’s female population but 30% of its female incarcerated population. Although there has also been an exponential rise among men— as part of the complex political, social, racial, and public health phenomenon known as mass incarceration—the rate of increase of women in custody has outpaced that of men. Nonetheless, there is a dearth of research about gender-specific health conditions among incarcerated women, especially pregnancy.
The story of women’s prison growth has been obscured by overly broad discussions of the “total” prison population for too long. This report sheds more light on women in the era of mass incarceration by tracking prison population trends since 1978 for all 50 states. The analysis identifies places where recent reforms appear to have had a disparate effect on women, and offers states recommendations to reverse mass incarceration for women alongside men.
Jails have been described as the criminal justice system’s “front door,” but jail incarceration typically begins with the police, with an arrest. Before any bail hearing, pretrial detention, prosecution, or sentencing, there is contact with the police. But despite their crucial role in the process, we know less about these police encounters than other stages of the criminal justice system.
Women make up a growing share of arrests and report much more use of force than they did 20 years ago.
American prison populations have long been characterized by racial and ethnic disparities. U.S. Census Bureau data on incarcerated persons from 1870 through 1980 show that black incarceration rates ranged from three to nine times those of whites, depending upon the decade and region of the country. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports over the past 40 years, black imprisonment rates ranged from about six to about eight times those of whites.
Given the dramatic growth of women’s incarceration in recent years, it’s concerning how little attention and how few resources have been directed to meeting the reentry needs of justice-involved women. After all, we know that women have different pathways to incarceration than men, and distinct needs, including the treatment of past trauma and substance use disorders, and more broadly, escaping poverty and meeting the needs of their children and families. In recognition of these differences, and in an effort to reduce the harms of incarceration and the likelihood of re-incarceration, many prison systems have begun to implement gender-responsive policies and programs. But what’s being done to help women get the support they need to rebuild their lives after release?
Over the past quarter century, there has been a profound change in the involvement of women within the criminal justice system. This is the result of more expansive law enforcement efforts, stiffer drug sentencing laws, and post-conviction barriers to reentry that uniquely affect women. The female incarcerated population stands nearly eight times higher than in 1980. More than 60% of women in state prisons have a child under the age of 18.1)
Between 1980 and 2017, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 750%, rising from a total of 26,378 in 1980 to 225,060 in 2017.