Women in Prison Fact Sheet

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Women in Prison Fact Sheet
United States

  • As of June 2008, 207,700 women were in state or federal prisons or local jails, just under 10% of the total U.S. prison and jail population (more than 2.3 million)
  • Nearly 115,800 women were in state or federal prisons alone, more than 7% of the total U.S. prison population of over 1.6 million.
  • At yearend 2007, there were more than 1.27 million women in prison or jail, or on parole or probation in the U.S.– over 17% of the total number in the U.S. (more than 7.3 million).
  • In the early 1980s, one in every 77 adults in the U.S. was under correctional supervision. Now, that figure is one in 31. For adult women, the figure is one in every 89.
  • From 1995 to 2008, the number of women in state and federal prisons nationwide increased by 203%.
  • Roughly 49% of women in state or federal prisons at yearend 2007 were white, just under 28% were African American, and almost 17% were Latina.
  • African-American women are incarcerated at three times the rate for white women; Latina women at almost 1.6 times the rate for white women.
  • As of 2005, almost 65% of women in state prisons were incarcerated for drug, property, or public order offenses.10 Nearly one in three reported committing their offense to support a drug addiction.
  • 62% of women and 51% of men in state prisons are parents of children under 18. More than 64%of mothers in state prisons lived with their children before prison, compared to over 46% of men.
  • 4% of women in state prisons, 3% of women in federal prisons, and about 5% of women in jail nationwide reported being pregnant at the time of their incarceration.
  • Women prisoners are more likely than male prisoners to have histories of physical or sexual abuse.
  • In 2004, 73% of women in state prisons either have symptoms or a diagnosis of mental illness and/or were receiving treatment from a mental health professional in the past year, compared to 55% of men.
  • Nearly 30% were receiving public assistance before arrest, compared to 8% of men. About 37% had incomes of less than $600 per month prior to arrest, compared to 28% of men.
  • More than 725,400 were released from federal and state prison in 2007. The federal government estimates that more than two-thirds of people released from prison are rearrested within three years.
  • Since 1982, U.S. corrections expenditures increased 660%, from $9 million to over $68.7 billion.

New York State

  • From 1973 to 2009, the number of women in New York’s prisons increased by more than 580%. During the same time period, the state’s total prison population increased by nearly 388%.
  • Since 1997, the state’s female prison population has decreased by more than 30%. The total prison population has decreased by nearly 13%.
  • As of mid-January 2009, women’s facilities in New York State had over 746 empty beds.
  • As of January 2009, 2,618 women were incarcerated in New York’s prisons – about 4.3% of the state’s total prison population of just under 61,000.
  • An additional 29,240 women were on parole (nearly 2,580) and probation (just over 24,080).
  • As of January 2009, women made up just over 8% of New York’s total parole population (nearly 31,500) and almost 20% of the state’s total probation population (almost 122,200).
  • More than 83% of women sent to New York’s prisons in 2008 were convicted of non-violent offenses.28 Of women sent to prison for violent felony offenses in 2008, 84% were first time felony offenders.
  • Almost 65% of women under state custody are first felony offenders. About 35% have either never been arrested or convicted of a crime prior to their current offense, compared with almost 22% of men.
  • It costs $44,000 to incarcerate a person in a New York State prison for one year.
  • Almost 68% of the state’s female inmates are women of color: more than 45% are African American, almost 20% are Latina, and more than 32% are white. Women of color comprise only 30% of New York’s entire female population.
  • More than 62% of women on parole in New York State are African American or Latina. For women on probation, more than 46% are African American or Latina.
  • As of January 2009, nearly 30% of women in New York’s prisons were incarcerated for a drug offense – 43% are serving time for first-time felony offenses.
  • More than 77% of women under state custody for a drug offense are women of color.
  • Just under 88% of women incarcerated in New York State prisons report having an alcohol or substance abuse problem prior to their arrest, compared to more than 82% of men.
  • An estimated eight in 10 women in have experienced severe abuse as children and an estimated nine in 10 have endured physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.
  • As of January 2007, more than 42% of women in New York’s prisons had been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, compared to nearly 12% of male inmates.
  • About 55% of women under state custody are from New York City and its suburbs. Nearly 41% are incarcerated at Albion Correctional Facility, about eight hours away from Manhattan.
  • The median minimum sentence for women in New York State prisons is 36 months.
  • Almost 73% of New York’s incarcerated women are parents, compared to more than 58% of men.
  • Almost 80,000 children have a parent in New York’s prisons, including nearly 5,240 children with an incarcerated mother.
  • Nearly 54% of women prisoners do not have a high school diploma, compared with nearly 46% of men. More than 35% of women under state custody read at an 8th grade level or below.
  • Approximately 12% of women in New York’s prisons are HIV positive, a rate of infection double the rate for male inmates and 80 times higher than the rate in the general public (.15%).
  • Over 22% of women in New York’s prisons have Hepatitis C, a rate nearly double that for male inmates (about 13%) and over 14 times higher than the HCV infection rate in the general public (1.6%).
  • More than 27,260 people were released from state prison in 2008: 25,407 men and 1,855 women.
  • Three years after release from New York’s prisons in 2003, women had a recidivism rate of about 30%. Men had a recidivism rate of about 40%.
  • New York State spends more than $2.8 billion annually on corrections. More than 31,000 people work for the state prison system.

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