Women Behind Bars
Date:  12-01-2015

What is the story behind the 206,000 women locked up in America’s jails and prisons?
Via The New York Times Editorial Board, November 30, 2015

In the last few years, America’s out-of-control incarceration boom has finally started to get the sustained public scrutiny, and condemnation, that it deserves. But one key element of the story still receives too little attention: the number of women in the nation’s prisons and jails.

Men account for more than 90 percent of those behind bars. But the number of female inmates, most of whom are mothers, has been growing at an even faster rate than the overall prison population. In 1980 there were just over 15,000 women in state prisons. By 2010 there were nearly 113,000. When jail inmates are added in, there are about 206,000 women currently serving time — nearly one-third of all female prisoners in the world.

This soaring population is largely a result of the war on drugs; the vast majority of the women behind bars were convicted of low-level drug or property crimes, rather than violent crimes. Many of them were swept up in larger conspiracy prosecutions targeted primarily at drug dealers they were living with. Many suffer from mental illness or drug addiction. And as is true with men, the racial disparities are severe: Black women are locked up at almost three times the rate of white women.

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