Posted Friday May 12 2000

Facts you need to know about women in US prisons:

Women now make up the fastest growing segment of the prison population. (U.S. Department of Justice; Office of Justice Programs)

The number of women in federal prison for drug law violations increased 421% between 1986 and 1996. (BJS Sourcebook l997)

The number of women in state prisons grew 75% from 1986-1991.

54% are women of color. Black women are incarcerated at a rate eight times that of white women. (The Sentencing Project)

At the time of arrest, approximately 75% of these women were the primary or sole caregivers with an average family income of less than $500 per month.

80% are mothers. 75% of these women have children under the age of 18. More than half of the women in prison never see their children while incarcerated. Over 60% are incarcerated more than 100 miles from their children, making visitation diffcult, financially prohibitive and often impossible. (Justice Works)

Nearly 2 million children have a parent who is incarcerated. Children of prisoners suffer an array of problems with truancy, early pregnancy, drug abuse and juvenile delinquency. (Justice Works)

Youth are the second largest population in the penal system.

78% of women in prison report that they have been physically or sexually abused while incarcerated (U S Department of Justice; Bureau of Justice Statistics)

Women currently convicted of drug offenses were often only couriers of "front" people. (U.S Department of Justice; Office of Justice Programs). Many of these women were unknowingly exploited, coerced or tricked into the drug trade. So-called "drug mules" are trapped by mandatory minimum sentencing structures. (Queens Legal Aid}

The average sentence for a first time non-violent drug offender is longer than the average sentence for rape, child molestation, bank robbery or manslaughter.

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