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Black Women's Imprisonment Rate Falling, White Women's Rate Up

Between 1980 and 2020, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 475 percent, rising from 26,326 in 1980 to 152,854 in 2020, reports The Sentencing Project. The 2020 count was a 30 percent reduction from 2019, a downsizing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which some states began to reverse in 2021. While the imprisonment rate for African-American women was nearly twice that of white women in 2020, this disparity represents a sharp decline from 2000, when Black women were six times as likely to be imprisoned. Since then, Black women’s imprisonment rate has decreased by 68 percent while white women’s rate has increased by 12 percent.

. Girls of color are more likely to be incarcerated than white girls. Tribal girls are more than four times as likely, and African-American girls are more than three times as likely as white girls to be incarcerated. The rate of imprisonment for Black and Latinx women has declined since 2000. Women in state prisons are more likely than men to be incarcerated for a drug or property offense. Twenty-six percent of women in prison have been convicted of a drug offense, compared to 13 percent of men in prison; 23 percent of incarcerated women have been convicted of a property crime, compared with 15 percent among incarcerated men. The proportion of imprisoned women convicted of a drug offense has increased from 12 percent in 1986 to 26 percent in 2019.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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