States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context

States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context

By Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon


We already know that when it comes to incarceration, the United States is truly exceptional. As we have reported previously, the United States incarcerates 716 people for every 100,000 residents, more than any other country. Worldwide, and within the U.S., the vast majority of those incarcerated are men. As a result, women’s incarceration rates are overshadowed and often lost in the data. As a first step in documenting how women fare in the world’s carceral landscape, this report compares the incarceration rates for women of each U.S. state with the equivalent rates for countries around the world.


Outpacing the world

Only 5% of the world’s female population lives in the U.S., but the U.S. accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s incarcerated women.

World Women’s Incarceration Rates If Every U.S. State Were A Country


Country/State Incarceration Rate Incarceration Rate
West Virginia 0 273
Oklahoma 0 226
Kentucky 0 220
Alabama 0 211
Arizona 0 211
Texas 0 206
Louisiana 0 198
New Mexico 0 191
Idaho 0 189
Georgia 0 186
South Dakota 0 183
Alaska 0 183
Wyoming 0 180
Mississippi 0 172
Florida 0 169
Tennessee 0 167
Arkansas 0 166
Hawaii 0 161
Nevada 0 153
Colorado 0 147
Virginia 0 146
District of Columbia 0 146
Connecticut 0 143
Montana 0 140
Indiana 0 138
Thailand 130 0
United States of America 127 0
Utah 0 124
Missouri 0 124
Ohio 0 122
South Carolina 0 122
California 0 119
Wisconsin 0 112
Oregon 0 112
Pennsylvania 0 110
Kansas 0 103
Washington 0 97
Iowa 0 97
North Carolina 0 95
Nebraska 0 94
Minnesota 0 93
Delaware 0 91
North Dakota 0 89
Illinois 0 88
El Salvador 87 0
Maryland 0 80
New Jersey 0 75
Turkmenistan 73 0
Macau (China) 71 0
New Hampshire 0 71
Russian Federation 69 0
Rwanda 59 0
New York 0 57
Panama 55 0
Maine 0 53
United Arab Emirates 51 0
Massachusetts 0 51
Vermont 0 50
Taiwan 48 0
Michigan 0 46
Singapore 44 0
Vietnam 43 0
Belarus 42 0
Costa Rica 42 0
Hong Kong (China) 42 0
Rhode Island 0 39
Kazakhstan 38 0
Bahrain 36 0
Myanmar 35 0
Latvia 35 0
Brazil 35 0
Chile 35 0
Colombia 35 0
Uruguay 34 0
Bolivia 32 0
Peru 28 0
Qatar 28 0
Lithuania 27 0
Hungary 26 0
Czech Republic 25 0
Ecuador 25 0
New Zealand 24 0
Paraguay 24 0
Malaysia 24 0
Kuwait 23 0
Mongolia 23 0
Puerto Rico 0 23
Australia 23 0
Slovakia 23 0
Estonia 23 0
Moldova (Republic of) 23 0
Spain 22 0
Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) 22 0
Kosovo/Kosova 22 0
Mexico 21 0
Venezuela 21 0
Mauritius 21 0
Philippines 21 0
Guatemala 21 0
Puerto Rico (USA) 20 0
Saudi Arabia 20 0
Guyana 18 0
Kyrgyzstan 18 0
Iran 18 0
Honduras 17 0
Cambodia 17 0
Swaziland 16 0
China 16 0
Portugal 16 0
Nicaragua 16 0
Romania 15 0
Turkey 15 0
United Kingdom: Scotland 15 0
Georgia 15 0
South Africa 14 0
Ukraine 14 0
Jamaica 14 0
Trinidad and Tobago 13 0
Bhutan 13 0
Poland 13 0
Argentina 13 0
Jordan 13 0
Kenya 12 0
Armenia 12 0
Laos 12 0
Greece 12 0
South Korea 12 0
United Kingdom: England & Wales 12 0
Dominican Republic 12 0
Israel 11 0
Azerbaijan 11 0
Austria 11 0
Tunisia 11 0
Cyprus 11 0
Fiji 11 0
Canada 11 0
Suriname 10 0
Serbia (incl. Kosovo) 10 0
Lebanon 10 0
Morocco 10 0
Uganda 10 0
Luxembourg 9 0
Croatia 9 0
Belgium 9 0
Sri Lanka 9 0
Germany 9 0
Syria 9 0
Nepal 8 0
Haiti 8 0
Finland 8 0
Norway 8 0
Macedonia (FYROM) 8 0
Guadeloupe (France) 8 0
Slovenia 8 0
Botswana 8 0
Netherlands 8 0
Djibouti 8 0
Japan 8 0
Switzerland 8 0
Bulgaria 8 0
Burundi 7 0
Italy 7 0
Madagascar 7 0
Lesotho 7 0
Namibia 7 0
United Kingdom: Northern Ireland 7 0
Albania 7 0
Benin 7 0
Sweden 7 0
Iraq 7 0
France 6 0
South Sudan 6 0
Indonesia 6 0
Papua New Guinea 6 0
Reunion (France) 6 0
Ireland 5 0
Ethiopia 5 0
Algeria 5 0
Egypt 5 0
Denmark 5 0
Angola 5 0
Afghanistan 5 0
Cameroon 4 0
Tanzania 4 0
Zimbabwe 4 0
Mozambique 4 0
Sierra Leone 4 0
Montenegro 4 0
Oman 4 0
Senegal 4 0
Bosnia and Herzegovina 4 0
Tajikistan 4 0
Togo 3 0
Bangladesh 3 0
India 3 0
Gambia 3 0
Central African Republic 3 0
Timor-Leste 3 0
Liberia 2 0
Libya 2 0
Niger 2 0
Zambia 2 0
Congo (Brazzaville) 2 0
Guinea 2 0
Chad 2 0
Sudan 2 0
Comoros 2 0
Democratic Republic of the Congo 2 0
Yemen 2 0
Cote d’Ivoire 2 0
Mali 2 0
Malawi 2 0
Ghana 1 0
Nigeria 1 0
Pakistan 1 0
Burkina Faso 1 0
Mauritania 1 0
Solomon Islands 1 0
Guinea-Bissau 0 0

Rates calculated per 100,000 people. Read more about the data.

Show all

Across the globe, the 25 jurisdictions with the highest rates of incarcerating women are all American states. Thailand, at number 26, is the first non-U.S. government to appear on this high-end list, followed closely at number 27 by the Unites States itself. The next 17 jurisdictions are also American states.

Overall, with the exception of Thailand and the U.S. itself, the top 44 jurisdictions throughout the world with the highest rate of incarcerating women are individual American states.

Nearly 30% of the world’s incarcerated women are in the United States, twice the percentage as in China and four times as much as in Russia.

Putting U.S. states in a global context is sobering; even the U.S. states that have comparatively low rates of incarceration far out-incarcerate the majority of the world.

Illinois’ incarceration rate for women is on par with El Salvador, where abortion is illegal and women are routinely jailed for having miscarriages. New Hampshire is on par with Russia, and New York with Rwanda.

Rhode Island, which has the lowest incarceration rate for women in the U.S.,1 would have the 15th highest incarceration rate in the world if it were a country. In other words, only 14 countries (not including the United States) incarcerate women at a higher rate than Rhode Island, the U.S. state that incarcerates women at the lowest rate of imprisonment.


Outpacing our peers

As we report, the United States incarcerates women at a rate similar only to Thailand. But looking instead to our international peers, exactly how does the U.S. measure up with other nations?

For comparison we use some of our closest allies, the founding countries of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO). These NATO countries incarcerate women at a rate eight to twenty-five times lower than the United States as a whole:

As we have noted, Rhode Island has the lowest women’s incarceration rate in the U.S., but it still has a rate more than twice that of Portugal, which has the second highest rate of incarcerating women among founding NATO nations. Nationally, the U.S. incarcerates women at a rate eight times higher than Portugal.


The United States’ incarceration rate for women is currently more than eight times higher than it was throughout most of the 20th century.

Outpacing ourselves

In the U.S., we are not only incarcerating women far more than nearly all other nations, but we are also incarcerating women far more than we have done in the recent past. The sudden growth of incarceration in our country has been staggering; our incarceration rate nearly tripled between 1980 and 1990.

Our own history demonstrates that high rates of incarceration are not an essential part of American policy; rather they are the outcomes of a series of now regrettable policy choices by federal, state and local officials in the last three decades.2



Currently prisons and jails in the U.S. confine approximately 206,000 women (at a rate of 127 per 100,000). Within the U.S., it is commonly noted that women are incarcerated far less frequently than men, but comparing women’s incarceration rate to that for men paints a falsely optimistic picture. When compared to jurisdictions across the globe, even the U.S. states with the lowest levels of incarceration are far out of line.

The statistics revealed by this report are simple and staggering. They suggest that states cannot remain complacent about how many women they incarcerate. Women should be a mainstay of any state policy discussions on the economical and effective use of incarceration if we hope to incarcerate fewer women.


About the data

This report compares the prevalence of incarceration in individual U.S. states with other countries, and therefore brings together data on the number of women incarcerated in states and countries as a portion of the states’ or countries’ total female populations. This report also puts together several different datasets to show the growth of the incarceration rate for women in the United States over time.

U.S. State data:

We choose to use U.S. Census data because we wanted to be sure to include all the forms of incarceration in the United States. (The Bureau of Justice Statistics has not published state-level estimates of the U.S. jail population — which makes up 30% of the total mass incarceration pie — since 2006.) We used U.S. Census 2010 data that shows the total number of people in each state who are confined in local, state, and federal adult correctional facilities. The women’s population was calculated by aggregating female population reported for all age groups in these adult correctional facilities.

This powerful census dataset comes with one quirk worth discussing: the Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as if they were residents of prison locations rather than their home communities. In the case of state prison systems that send a large number of people to prisons in other states, or in the context of federal prisons, this Census Bureau residence determination can influence a state’s incarceration rate calculated with that data. A significant portion of West Virginia (61%), Connecticut (51%) and Minnesota’s (43%) female prison population appear to be women in federal facilities located within the state’s borders. We did not attempt to factor out these populations for two reasons. First, as a practical matter, systematically disentangling the Census Bureau’s reported incarcerated populations into discrete jurisdictional categories is impractical. And secondly, federal prisons are not sited randomly; states which host federal prisons are active partners in buoying incarceration.

Country data:

The women’s incarceration rate for each country was calculated using two incarceration datasets from the Institute for Criminal Policy Research and population data from the United Nations and other sources.

The number of women incarcerated in each country was calculated based on the Institute for Criminal Policy Research’s World Prison Brief’s Highest to Lowest – Female prisoners (percentage of prison population) which provided the percentage of each country’s incarcerated population that is female, and the corresponding list of incarcerated population totals for each country.3 (For some countries, the World Prison Brief includes some number of girls in the numbers of incarcerated women.)

For most countries’ women’s population we relied on the United Nations’ World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Total Population – Female file. For Taiwan and countries within the United Kingdom, the UN’s World Population Prospects and the ICPR’s World Prison Brief were incompatible, so we relied on individual country censuses for female population totals for each jurisdiction. We used Taiwan’s 2010 Census, and for the United Kingdom, England & Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland (Year 2011, Table DC1117SC).

We were unable to calculate the rate of incarceration for women in four jurisdictions within the former Yugoslavia. The World Prison Brief publishes incarceration data separately for Serbia and Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina: Federation and Bosnia and Herzegovina: Republika Srpska separately, but reliable female population counts are only available for each pair of jurisdictions combined, so we could not calculate an incarceration rate.

Finally, to make the comparisons in this report more meaningful, we’ve chosen to only include nations with a total population of at least 250,000 women. For that reason, Iceland, which is also one of the original NATO founders, is not included in the NATO graph, or the full list above. For those interested, Iceland’s incarceration rate is lowest among the NATO founders, at 3 per 100,000.

U.S. historical data:

The historical graph was calculated using different datasets that included women in all types of correctional facilities (including jails) and the total U.S. women’s population for the corresponding year.

Historical data for the number of women incarcerated in prisons 1910 and 1923 was calculated based on incarceration data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Historical Corrections Statistics in the United States, 1850-1984 (Table 3-31. Characteristics of Persons in State and Federal Prisons). The data for 1933 through 1970 came from Bureau of Justice Statistics’ State and Federal Prisoners, 1925-85 (Table 1. Sentenced prisoners in State and Federal institutions: Number and incarceration rates, 1925-85). And data for 1980 through 2014 came from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Prisoner Statistics Program, Sentenced female prisoners under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities, December 31, 1978-2014 (XLSX).

The historical numbers of women incarcerated in jails is also based on multiple sources. For 1910 through 1980 and 1982 we calculated the number of women incarcerated in jails based on Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Historical Corrections Statistics in the United States, 1850-1984 (Table 4-15. Characteristics of Persons in Jails). (We were unable to identify any source for the number of women incarcerated in jails in 1981.) From 1983 to 1994, Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics – 1994 (Table 6.11 Number of Jail inmates, average dally population, and rated capacity: By legal status and sex, United States, 1983-94). For years 1995 through 1999, and 2001 through 2004, the number of incarcerated women in jails was calculated from the Sourcebook of criminal justice statistics Online’s Table 6.17.2012, Jail inmates, By sex, race, Hispanic origin, and conviction status, United States, 1990-2012 and Table 6.1.2011, Adults on probation, in jail or prison, and on parole United States, 1980-2011. And numbers for 2000 and 2005 through 2014 are from Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Jail Inmates at Midyear 2014 (Table 2. Number of inmates in local jails, by characteristics, midyear 2000 and 2005-2014).

From the data above, we calculated the total number of women incarcerated in each year, but in order to calculate the rate of incarceration, we also needed the total number of women in the U.S. for each year. Population data until 1980 and for 1990, was calculated based on sex ratios from the Census Bureau’s Demographic Trends in the 20th Century Census 2000 Special Reports (Table 6. Population by Sex for the United States, Regions, and States: 1900 to 2000, Part B. Female) and the total U.S. population reported by the Census Bureau. The sex ratios were reported decennially, so for 1923 and 1933 we estimated the ratio based on an adjusted percentage of change between the bookend decades that were reported. Starting with 1980 (except for 1990), we took the female population numbers directly from the U.S. Census Bureau’s intercensal estimates and decennial census counts. Total female U.S. population for 1982 through 1989 came from the Census Bureau’s Quarterly Population Estimates, 1980 to 1990 and the data for 1991 through 1999 came from the Census Bureau’s Intercensal Estimates (1990-2000), and 2000 through 2014 from the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder.


About the authors

The non-profit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative produces cutting edge research to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization, and then sparks advocacy campaigns to create a more just society. This report was prepared by Aleks Kajstura, Legal Director of the Prison Policy Initiative, and Russ Immarigeon, an independent researcher and editor of the two-volume set, Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System: Policy Strategies and Program Options (Civic Research Institute, 2006, 2011).



We extend a special thanks to Josh Begley for his innovative work on States of Incarceration: The Global Context, upon which this report relied, and Elydah Joyce for her work on the NATO graphic.



  1. Though their low incarceration rates belie the state’s extensive use of probation and other forms of correctional control.  ↩
  2. Incarceration is driven by state policy and the rate of growth or decline varies greatly between states.  ↩
  3. Another great resource for anyone looking for similar data is the Institute for Criminal Policy Research’s World Female Imprisonment List, 3rd edition (2015).  ↩

‘These Babies Keep Dying’ – About that Death in Custody –

Filed 7:15 a.m.


‘These Babies Keep Dying’

Prodded by lawsuits, one jail moves to curb fetal deaths.

Over a stretch of 17 months at the largest jail in Arkansas, three inmates miscarried and one gave birth to a full-term baby boy in a toilet. The newborn soon died, still attached to his umbilical cord. He was wrapped in a medical waste bag.

If the women had not sued the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility in Little Rock, few people in the outside world would have known about the deaths. There is no national tally of miscarriages and other pregnancy outcomes in jails and prisons. Few facilities track them at all.

But what makes this jail stand out is not just the grim tally of fetal deaths. It is the county’s response: A new virtual ob-gyn clinic that aims to prevent miscarriages and stillbirths in the future.

“Hiding from one screwup doesn’t prevent the next one,” said Maj. Matthew Briggs, second-in-command of the 1,530-bed facility that houses about 200 women on a typical day.

By Christmas, the jail’s medical facility is expected to have interactive video equipment, a fetal heart rate monitor and an ultrasound machine. The county is close to signing an estimated $150,000 annual contract with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to provide nurses who specialize in high-risk pregnancies to perform weekly prenatal exams on inmates. Doctors will examine the women remotely from their offices three miles away through video chats, digital scopes and the heart-rate monitor.

“A patient is a patient. It is just as important to me whether it is my daughter-in-law, who is pregnant now, or whether it’s a prisoner who is a patient,” said Tina Benton, oversight director for the university’s Center for Distance Health. “I am going to take care of them the same way.”


A maternal fetal medicine (MFM) clinic consult room at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. The Pulaski County Detention Center is close to signing a contract with UAMS.

Remote medicine has been used to treat inmates in jails and prisons for at least a generation, but it is rare to use the technology for prenatal care, according to Jonathan Linkous, chief executive officer of the American Telemedicine Association. Little Rock may be the first jail in the country to host such a program.

Legally, Pulaski County was under no obligation to change the way it treated pregnant inmates. The settlement, which was just under $200,000 for all four women, didn’t dictate any reforms. The state requires that its 119 local jails offer only the “minimum standard” of medical care and is silent on the specifics of treating pregnant prisoners.

Still, soon after the case was filed in February 2014, the jail staff anticipated a litany of court-ordered reforms and began making modifications.

“We saw that changes were needed. And we said, ‘Let’s make it now.’ We didn’t wait to be told,” Briggs said.

While preparing for the telemedicine equipment, the jail has added a registered nurse who is trained in prenatal health. The wait time for a pregnant inmate’s physical has been reduced to two days from a week, and guards escort prisoners to check-ups at a nearby obstetrics clinic instead of relying on the jail’s nursing assistants for care. There have been no fetal deaths at the jail since December 2013, Briggs said.

Nationwide, there is almost no way to track miscarriages and problem pregnancies in jails and prisons.

The Justice Department counts inmates who die behind bars, but there is no comprehensive tally of fetal deaths, or even expectant mothers, especially in the nation’s approximately 3,300 local facilities. Jails, rather than prisons, tend to have higher rates of pregnancy because of higher turnover and shorter sentences.

Prodded by lawsuits, several states have inched toward more disclosure. Over the summer, the Texas Legislature ordered the state’s jails to report their prenatal policies. (As of Oct, 1, there were 416 expectant mothers locked up in Texas jails). The effort was sparked by a 2014 federal lawsuitfiled by a woman in Wichita Falls who said she lost her 34-week-old fetus while in solitary confinement in the rural town’s jail. The jail did not respond to a request for comment.

“When you ask those in charge to put together reports and collect data, it lets them know that we are paying attention. We want to know how these special populations are being handled,” said Texas Rep. Celia Israel, a Democrat who represents Austin. Israel wrote the legislation and said she got broad bipartisan support for the effort.


Christina Marziale was pregnant before being incarcerated in an Arkansas state facility.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania and Montana has also published surveys of prenatal care in local jails.

The frustration over the lack of uniform statistics has prompted two medical school professors, one at Johns Hopkins University and another at Brown University, to launch their own ambitious hunt for numbers. They have recruited four state prison systems, including Washington and Rhode Island, and a jail in a fifth state to participate. The researchers requested the correctional facilities provide tallies of full-term births, abortions, miscarriages, stillbirths, C-sections and other outcomes. The National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women and the National Institute for Corrections, which is funded by the Justice Department, are helping to identify facilities to participate.

“Once we understand how many pregnant women are behind bars and what happens to those pregnancies, we can better figure out what needs to be done to ensure good outcomes,” said Dr. Carolyn Sufrin, a Johns Hopkins professor. The project’s goal is to entice the federal government to join the data collection effort for federal institutions, state prison systems and county jails.

That is not fast enough for Luther Sutter, the Little Rock civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit against the jail. Sutter took on a second case last month, filed by the family of 34-year-old Christina Marziale, a former drug addict serving a nine-month sentence in an Arkansas state correctional facility.

Sonogram image of Marziale’s daughter during her seventh month of pregnancy.

Marziale was seven months pregnant with twins when she began serving time in August in a low-security facility for drug offenders. Her family says she lost 11 pounds while there, threw up blood and was rarely allowed to see a doctor. Her daughter, Elaine, was born underweight and died. Her son, Murray, has spent his first month of life at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

“I was done with one lawsuit, and more people started calling us,” Sutter said. “It’s happening again and again. These babies keep dying. And we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Dina Taylor, a spokeswoman for Arkansas Community Correction, the agency that runs the facility where Marziale was housed before being moved to another one, said no reforms are planned.

“One thing I’ve learned is that anyone can claim anything, but that doesn’t mean the allegations are true,” Taylor wrote in an email. “We’re not going to change policy simply because someone makes an allegation.”

October 15, 2015

Pennsylvania built a special HELL FOR WOMEN: The Restricted Housing Unit of SCI-Muncyrce:

Source: Pennsylvania built a special HELL FOR WOMEN: The Restricted Housing Unit of SCI-Muncyrce:


Were These Transgender Prisoners Paroled — Or Just Kicked Out?

Originally posted on

Were These Transgender Prisoners Paroled — Or Just Kicked Out?

Three prisons were ordered to provide transgender health care. Three prisoners were suddenly set free.

Michelle-Lael Norsworthy was well on her way to becoming a pioneer this year—the first U.S. inmate to receive gender reassignment surgery—when she was unexpectedly freed from Mule Creek State Prison in California.

Michelle-Lael Norsworthy after being granted parole at Mule Creek State Prison in May 21, 2015 in Ione, Ca.

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Woman found dead in Alberta RCMP cell – The Canadian Press

Originally posted on

The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, July 21, 2015 11:22AM EDT

MASKWACIS, Alta. — An investigation is underway into the death of a woman who was being held in a central Alberta RCMP cell.

Mounties say the 35-year-old woman, who was involved in a domestic violence case, was taken into custody at the Maskwacis detachment late Sunday night.

She was found unresponsive around 3:30 a.m. Monday and attempts were made to resuscitate her, but she was pronounced dead at the Hospital.

The woman’s name has not been released and police have not disclosed any other details about how she died.

The RCMP’s Major Crimes Unit is looking into the death, while the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team will review the Mounties’ investigation.

ASIRT is the provincial watchdog agency that reviews incidents involving the death or injury of people that resulted from the actions of police, or other serious cases involving police…

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Only Woman on Georgia’s Death Row, Mrs. Kelly Renee Gissendaner, is Executed | Black America Web |

Originally posted on

Only woman on Georgia’s death row is executed

Source: Only woman on Georgia’s death row is executed | Black America Web |

Only Woman on Georgia’s Death Row is Executed

KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press

JACKSON, Ga. (AP) — The only woman on Georgia’s death row was executed early Wednesday, making her the first woman put to death by the state in seven decades. The only woman on Georgia’s death row was executed early Wednesday, making her the first woman put to death by the state in seven decades.

Pope Francis’ diplomatic representative in the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, on Tuesday sent a letter to the parole board on behalf of the pontiff asking for a commutation of Gissendaner’s sentence “to one that would better express both justice and mercy.” He cited an address the pope made to a joint session of Congress last week in which he called…

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