Sentencing Project Report: The Changing Racial Dynamics of Women’s Incarceration
Date:  03-01-2013

Incarceration rate for black women drops, while the incarceration rate for white women rises
A new Sentencing Project report shows that the incarceration rate of black women has dropped over the period of 2000 -2009.

Highlights taken from the report include the following:

  • In 2000, African American women were incarcerated at six times the rate of white women, by 2009 that disparity had dropped by half, to less than three times the white rate.

  • During this period the black women’s rate of incarceration declined by 30.7%, while the rate for white women increased by 47.1% and for Latinas by 23.3%. (These figures represent national trends, and are likely to vary considerably by state, depending on such factors as crime rates, sentencing policy, and socioeconomics.)

    The changes are attributed to:

  • Declining arrest rates for African American women, along with sharp reductions in incarceration for drug offenses in certain states.

  • Rising rates of imprisonment for white women for property crimes in particular, as well as for violent and drug offenses.

  • The cumulative social disadvantages that correlate with greater involvement in substance abuse and crime are increasingly affecting less educated white women.
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