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Incarcerated Women

Narrative

In 2010, there were a total of 1,612,395 prisoners serving sentences of more than a year under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities in the United States. This includes 1,499,573 men and 112,822 women, resulting in incarceration rates of 943 and 67 per 100,000, respectively. While men are more likely to be incarcerated than women, women have seen a greater incarceration rate increase than men from 2000 to 2010 (13.6 versus 4.3 percent, respectively; data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).1

Among both women and men, there continue to be substantial racial and ethnic disparities in incarceration. For example, non-Hispanic Black women are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic White women (133 versus 47 per 100,000 women, respectively). Rates also vary with age, peaking among women aged 30–34 years at 175 per 100,000 (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

Compared to their male counterparts, female prisoners serving State sentences of more than a year were more likely to be incarcerated for property and drug-related offenses and less likely to be incarcerated for violent crimes. In 2009, nearly 30 percent of women prisoners were incarcerated for property crimes, including burglary and fraud, and 25.7 percent were incarcerated for drug offenses, while less than 20 percent of men were incarcerated for either type of offense. By contrast, over half of male prisoners (54.4. percent) were serving sentences for violent crimes including murder, manslaughter, or assault, compared to 35.9 percent of female prisoners.

Incarcerated women often enter the criminal justice system either already suffering from, or at risk for, a wide range of chronic physical, mental, and behavioral health challenges including sexually transmitted infections and HIV, substance abuse disorders, and depression. Further, a majority of female prisoners are of reproductive age and may be pregnant or parenting when incarcerated. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that incarcerated females be treated according to the same standards of care for non-incarcerated individuals with an emphasis on identifying and treating infectious diseases and mental health needs.2

1 Guerino P, Harrison PM, Sabol WJ. Prisoners in 2010. December 2011. Accessed 10/11/12.

2 Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women. Committee opinion no. 535: reproductive health care for incarcerated women and adolescent females. Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Aug;120(2 Pt 1):425-9

Graphs

Data

Incarceration Rate* Under State and Federal Jurisdiction, by Race/Ethnicity and Sex, 2010
Race/Ethnicity Rate per 100,000 Population
Female Male
*Based on prisoners with a sentence of more than 1 year; includes persons under the age of 18 years.
**Includes American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders, and persons identifying two or more races. Source: Guerino P, Harrison PM, Sabol WJ. Prisoners in 2010. December 2011. Accessed on 10/11/12.
Total** 67 943
Non-Hispanic White 47 459
Non-Hispanic Black 133 3,074
Hispanic 77 1,258
Offenses of Sentenced Prisoners* Under State Jurisdiction, by Sex, 2009
Offense Type Percent of Prisoners
Female Male
*Counts based on prisoners with a sentence of more than 1 year; percentages may not total to 100 due to rounding.
**Includes weapons, drunk driving, court offenses, commercialized vice, morals and decency offenses, liquor law violations, and other public-order offenses.
†Includes juvenile offenses and other unspecified offense categories. Source: Guerino P, Harrison PM, Sabol WJ. Prisoners in 2010. December 2011. Accessed on 10/11/12.
Violent 35.9 54.4
Property 29.6 18.4
Drug 25.7 17.2
Public-order** 7.2 9.0
Other/Unspecified† 1.5 1.0