September 29, 2015

700,000 women in prison worldwide, says report

The number of women in prisons worldwide has risen by 50% in the last 15 years, according to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR).

The third edition of the ICPR’s World Female Imprisonment List reports that there are now over 700,000 women and girls in prison throughout the world—and the figure has grown at a faster rate than that of male prisoners.

The country with the largest female prison population is the US, where over 205,000 women are currently incarcerated. It is followed by China, which currently has over 100,000 female prisoners, “plus an unknown number in pre-trial or administrative detention”.

Meanwhile, the country with the highest percentage of women among the general prison population is Hong Kong, where around one in five prisoners are female. Women typically account for between 2% and 9% of a country’s total prison population.

But while the female prison population has grown by 50% since 2000, the total prison population has only increased by 20%, according to the report.

Jessica Jacobson, co-director of ICPR, commented that: “The approximately 50% increase in numbers of imprisoned women and girls over the past 15 years should be of profound concern to governments, prison administrations and all who are committed to justice and penal reform.”

Nadia Campaniello has written for IZA World of Labor about women and crime. Noting that the number of crimes committed by women has increased partly due to greater equality, she argues that: “Despite increasing social equality, police and judicial systems still tend to be more lenient with female than with male offenders. Policies to reduce wage disparities between skilled and unskilled female workers, such as incentivizing female education, might reduce crime among disadvantaged women. Family support policies, by encouraging marriage and having children, might also reduce crime among women.”

Read more on this story at BBC News. The World Female Imprisonment List can be accessed here.

Related articles:
Women in crime by Nadia Campaniello
Active labor market policies and crime by Torben Tranaes