They are our mothers, our daughters, our sisters and our friends. More than 200,000 women are currently incarcerated in American prisons and jails, while more than a million are under some form of correctional control.

Here's another shocking fact - one that illustrates a gaping hole in our communities: nearly 65% of mothers in state prisons lived with their children pre-incarceration. Many of those children are sent to live with relatives, sent to foster care - or forced to fend for themselves.

The statistics aren't pretty: one in 25 female inmates in state prison custody are pregnant when they are admitted. In all but 13 states, female prison inmates are shackled during labor and delivery. And the vast majority of babies born in custody are immediately removed from their mothers. 

Over 1 million women are under some form of correctional control or supervision in the United States:

  • Probation (712,084) [1]

  • Prison (111,387) [2]

  • Parole (103,374) [3]

  • Jail (93,300) [4]

  • Between 1980 and 2011, the number of female prison inmates rose from 15,118 female inmates to 111,387 female inmates -- a 587% increase. [5][6]

  • Between 1980 and 2011, the number of female prisoners increased 1.5 times the rate of male prisoners -- 637% versus 419%. [7][8]

  • There are now more than 200,000 women incarcerated in American prisons and jails. [9]

  • In 2011, 65 out of every 100,000 women in the United States were in prison. [10]

  • Oklahoma is the most avid incarcerator of women in the United States with 121 out of every 100,000 women in prison. [11]

  • Rhode Island incarcerates the fewest women per capita in the United States with only 15 out of every 100,000 women in prison. [12]

Incarcerated Mothers

  • One in 25 female inmates in state custody are pregnant when admitted to state prison. [13]

  • One in 33 female inmates in federal custody are pregnant when admitted to federal prison. [14]

  • Most children born to incarcerated mothers are immediately taken from them. [15]

  • In all but 13 states, female prison inmates are shackled during labor and delivery. [16]

  • Female prisoners (62%) in state prisons are more likely to have children under the age of 18 than male prisoners (51%) in state prisons. [17]

  • 47% of fathers in state prisons lived with their children pre-incarceration. [18]

  • 64% of mothers in state prisons lived with their children pre-incarceration. [19]

  • When the mother is incarcerated, grandparents (45%), other relatives (23%), and foster care facilities (11%) are more likely to become the primary caregivers to minor children. [20]

  • When the father is incarcerated, grandparents (13%), other relatives (5%), and foster care facilities (2%) are more likely to become the primary caregivers to minor children. [21]

Health and Criminal History Differences Among Incarcerated Men and Women

  • Incarcerated women (59%) are more likely than incarcerated men (43%) to have communicable medical diseases (e.g., STDs, HIV, Hepatitis C, etc.). [22]

  • Men are more likely to be incarcerated for violent offenses. [23]

  • Women are more likely to be incarcerated for property and drug offenses. [24]

  • 55% of incarcerated men in state prisons had symptoms of mental health disorders. [25]

  • 73% of incarcerated women in state prisons had symptoms of mental health disorders. [26]

  • Incarcerated women are at a much higher risk than men of being sexually victimized in prison. [27]

  • Over 3/4 of total reported sexual assaults in U.S. prisons were of female prisoners being sexually assaulted by male prison staff. [28]

Cultural Factors: Ethnicity and Race of Incarcerated Women

  • One in 56 women will be incarcerated at some point in their lifetime, although racial factors heavily impact this figure. [29]

  • In 2011, white women had a 1 in 118 lifetime incarceration likelihood. [30]

  • In 2011, Hispanic women had a 1 in 45 lifetime incarceration likelihood. [31]

  • In 2011, black women had a 1 in 19 lifetime incarceration likelihood. [32]

From 2000 to 2010, the rate of incarceration for women changed depending on racial and ethnic factors:

  • White Women (38% increase) [33]

  • Hispanic Women (28% increase) [34]

  • Black Women (35% decrease) [35]

  • In 2011, Hispanic women were 1.4 times more likely to be incarcerated than white women (71 versus 51 per 100,000). [36]

  • In 2011, black women were 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated than white women (129 versus 51 per 100,000). [37]

__________

Sources:

1-L. Glaze and T. Bonczar, Probation and Parole in the United States, 2010 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011).

2-A. Carson and W. Sabol, Prisoners in 2011 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012).

3-Op. cit., 1.

4-T.D. Minton, Jail Inmates at Midyear 2011 -- Statistical Tables (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012).

5-M. Cahalan, Historical Corrections Statistics in the United States, 1850-1984 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1986).

6-Op. cit., 2.

7-Op. cit., 5.

8-Op. cit., 2.

9-Ibid.

10-Op. cit., 2.

11-Ibid.

12-Ibid.

13-L. Maruschak, Medical Problems of Prisoners (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008).

14-Ibid.

15-Women's Prison Association, Institute on Women & Criminal Justice, Mothers, Infants and Imprisonment: A National Look at Prison Nurseries and Community-Based Alternatives (New York, NY: Women's Prison Association, 2009).

16-Women's Prison Association, Institute on Women & Criminal Justice, Shackling Brief (New York, NY: Women's Prison Association, 2011).

17-Op. cit., 13.

18-Ibid.

19-Ibid.

20-Ibid.

21-Ibid.

22-Op. cit., 13.

23-Op. cit., 2.

24-Ibid.

25-D. James and L. Glaze, Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006).

26-Ibid.

27-A. Beck, PREA Data Collection Activities, 2012 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012).

28-Ibid.

29-T. Bonczar, Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974-2001 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003).

30-Ibid.

31-Ibid.

32-Ibid.

33-P. Guerino, P.M. Harrison, and W. Sabol, Prisoners in 2010 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011).

34-Ibid.

35-Ibid.

36-Op. cit., 2.

37-Ibid.

Note: A special thanks to The Sentencing Project for granting permission to utilize their research and compiled data in the creation of this webpage, Incarcerated Women.