ELLA Foundation Blog

10 Facts About Incarcerated Women and Their Children in America

From Becoming Miss Burton

link to purchase the book on Amazon

  1. The majority of incarcerated women are mothers of underage children. Over 40 % of these mothers report that, upon incarceration, they were the only parent in the household.
  2. Being abused or neglected as a child increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by nearly 60 %, and the likelihood of adult violent crime by approximately 30 %.
  3. The majority of offenses committed by women are non-violent drug and property crimes, motivated by poverty and addiction. Most female offenders are under thirty years old, and are disproportionately low-income, black, and didn’t complete high school. The lifetime likelihood of imprisonment for white women is 1 in 118; for black women, it’s 1 in 19.
  4. Over 70 % of Americans in prison cannot read above a fourth-grade level. When inmates are provided literacy help, the rate of recidivism drops to a 16 % chance of returning to prison— as opposed to a 70 % chance for those who receive no reading help.
  5. People and their families are more likely to live in poverty and be hungry if they have been incarcerated. Just 3 % of federal spending goes toward nutrition programs. The average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit per person is about $ 29.25 per week.
  6. Most women are behind bars for social or victimless crimes— while the real victims, which the flawed system perpetuates, are the children. The number of children under age eighteen with a mother in prison has more than doubled since 1991. Approximately 10 million American children have or have had a parent in prison.
  7. Women commit far fewer murders than men, but receive far longer sentences. A woman who kills a male partner receives, on average, a fifteen-year sentence, while a man who kills a female partner typically receives two to six years.
  8. Approximately 90 % of women imprisoned for killing someone close to them had been abused by that person.
  9. Nearly 80 % of formerly incarcerated women are unable to afford housing after release. Most public housing authorities automatically deny eligibility to anyone with a criminal record. No other country deprives people of the right to housing because of their criminal histories.
  10. One in five inmates in California is behind bars for a low-level crime, such as simple drug possession or petty theft. Annually, this is forty thousand offenders punished in the same way the state punishes those who commit violent and heinous crimes.

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