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Prison Population

  • Over 2 million prisoners are held in federal and state prisons or local jails which gives the U.S. one-quarter of the world’s 8 million prisoners
  • Currently, there are almost 1.6 million people being held under State or Federal Jurisdiction
  • Justice Policy Institute released that the jail population has nearly doubled in less than 2 decades, and last year the prison population grew by 25,000
  • More than 1 in 100 American adults is behind bars
  • As of June 2006, 203,100 women were in state or federal prisons or local jails which is a 64% increase from 1995
  • In 2006, there were more than 1.3 million women inmates, parolees, and probationers in the U.S.


  • More than 60% of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate
  • 85% of all juveniles who go through the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate
  • Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help
  • The Department of Justice stated, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure."

Race and Ethnicity

  • A report, from the Pew Center on the States, found that only 1 in 355 white women between the ages of 35-39 are incarcerated, but that 1 in 100 black women is behind bars
  • African Americans are nearly 5 times as likely to be incarcerated in jails as whites and almost 3 times as likely as Latinos
  • Based on Justice Department statistics for 2006, 1 in 15 black adults and 1 in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars
  • One in 9 black men between the ages of 20-34 is in prison

Single Mothers

  • 78% of the nation's jail and prison inmates grew up in a fatherless household, even though only 15% of today's adult population grew up without a father
  • 77% of women in prisons or jails are single mothers
  • Nationally, nearly 8.7 million children have parents under correctional supervision (either in prison or jail, or on probation or parole).  Almost 1.8 million children have parents in state or federal prison
  • More than 65% of women and 55% of men in state prisons report being parents of children under 18.  64% of mothers in state prisons report living with their children before prison.  One-third of mothers lived alone with their children in the month prior to arrest.  One in 5 children of incarcerated mothers witnessed their mother’s arrest.
  • 88% of fathers in New York State prisons report that their children live with their mothers, while only 20% of incarcerated mothers in New York report that their children live with their fathers.  More than 74% of incarcerated mothers report that their children live with a grandparent or other relative and 18% report that their children live in foster homes or agencies.
  • African American children are nearly 9 times more likely to have a parent in prison than white children.  Latino children are 3 times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent.

Sexual Abuse

  • About 80% of women prisoners have been sexually or physically abused before being incarcerated
  • 87% of female inmates who spent their childhood in foster care or institutions report that they had been abused at some point in their lives
  • In some facilities, 1 in 4 women are sexually abused while in prison
  • Women inmates in New Jersey's prisons are twice as likely to be raped and nearly 6 times more likely to be otherwise sexually abused by other inmates than their male counterparts

Physical Abuse and Retaliation

  • Battering is the single major cause of injury to women, more frequent than auto accidents, muggings and rapes combined
  • An act of adult domestic violence occurs every 15 seconds, more frequently than any other crime in the U.S.
  • FBI data indicate that 30% of female homicide victims are killed by their husbands or boyfriends
  • Research shows that when victims kill it is much more likely to be in self-defense than when abusers perpetrate homicide.  Victims who resort to homicide have often tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to obtain protection from their abusers. 
  • A Police Foundation study in Detroit and Kansas City found that in 85-90% of "partner" homicides, police had been called to the home at least once during the 2 years preceding the incident; in more than half of these cases they had been called 5 times or more.
  • A Cook County (Illinois) Dept. of Corrections study of the Chicago women's prison found that 40 percent of inmates incarcerated for murder or manslaughter had killed partners who repeatedly assaulted them.  These women had sought police protection at least five 5 before resorting to homicide.
  • A study on a California state prison found that 93% of women who had killed their mates had been battered by them; 67% of these women indicated the homicide resulted from an attempt to protect themselves or their children.

Drug Abuse

  • As of January 2007, almost 78% of women in prison and just under 91% of men in prison for drug offenses were African American or Latina, even though studies show that Caucasians use, sell, and buy drugs in greater numbers than people of color
  • The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports that drug and alcohol abuse play a role in the incarceration of 80% of the individuals imprisoned in U.S. jails and prisons
  • As of 2000, more than 70% of women inmates were incarcerated for non-violent drug, property or public offenses

Mental Health

  • Each year about 150 prisoners commit suicide, about 70 perish in deaths caused by another, and 400 die of unknown causes that were apparently not natural, self-inflicted, accidental, or resulting from homicide
  • Jails are labeled the “new asylums,” since 6 out of 10 people in jail are living with a mental illness
  • As of 2004 government study found that 73% of women in state prisons nationwide either had symptoms or a clinical diagnosis of mental illness and/or were receiving treatment from a mental health professional in the past year, compared to 55% of men

Labor and Costs

  • Prisoners who work earn as little as $0.08 per hour.  Female incarcerated in federal prisons make a minimum of $5.75 per month. 
  • In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections which drastically contrasts the $10.6 billion spent in 1987.
  • In 2005, it cost on average $23, 876 dollars to imprison someone, yet the cost of outpatient drug treatment ranges from $4,300-$7,500 per person per year