Study Highlights Increase of Women in Prison

The US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a report last week that shows the number of women in US prisons and jails has risen 57 percent since 1995. While men still outnumber women in the prison system, in 2005 the number of male prisoners has increased 1.9 percent, whereas the number of incarcerated women has gone up 2.6 percent, according to the report (pdf). North Dakota has seen the largest rise of female prisoners, with an 18.2 percent increase since 1995, while New York had the greatest decrease, with 2.5 percent less incarcerated females in state or federal prisons. The report also shows that, in comparison to white women, black women are twice as likely to be incarcerated and Hispanic women are more than three times as likely.

“Today’s figures fail to capture incarceration’s impact on the thousands of children left behind by mothers in prison. Misguided policies that create harsher sentences for non-violent drug offenses are disproportionately responsible for the increasing rates of women in prisons and jails,” said Marc Mauer, the Executive Director of the Sentencing Project.

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Department of Justice report; AP 12/1/06; Sentencing Project release 12/4/06; DOJ release 11/30/06

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