Number of Female Prisoners Increases at a Higher Rate than Male Prisoners

The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics recently announced that the number of women prisoners in state and federal prisons is at an all time high and growing at nearly twice the pace of male prisoners. The Chicago Tribune reports that total number of women prisoners has increased 48 percent since 1995 to more than 100,000 for the first time, while the increase for men was 29 percent during the same time period. The prison population has grown despite a crime rate that has lowered over the past several years, according to the New York Times, and is attributed to laws created in the last decade that have lengthened prison sentences, including mandatory minimum sentencing legislation, three-strikes legislation, and truth-in-sentencing legislation. Marc Mauer, assistant director of a group called the Sentencing Project which advocates for alternatives to long prison terms, notes that half of those incarcerated are serving sentences for non-violent crimes. Mauer explains that this statistic and the dramatic increase in women prisoners are both results of the war on drugs. “It represents a sort of vicious cycle of women engaged in drug abuse and often connected with financial or psychological dependence with a boyfriend” or other man involved in drug crime, Mauer told the Chicago Tribune. Another alarming statistic reported by the Justice Department is that approximately 10 percent of African-American men between the ages of 25 and 29 are currently behind bars. An estimated 44 percent of all state and federal prisoners are African-American, in spite of the fact that, according to the US Census Bureau, African-Americans only comprise roughly 12.75 percent of the US population. JOIN the Feminist Majority


Chicago Tribune 11/08/04; New York Times 11/08/04; San Francisco Gate 11/08/04; USA Today 11/08/04; US Census Bureau

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