In May 2019, there were over 4,000 women in jail in the United Kingdom, a figure that was much lower than the number of males in UK prisons at the same time. There are two types of prison in the UK: independent prisons and custodial establishments. Independent prisons include Moorfields, Womens' Hall, and Rampton. They are mainly used to hold young people or older adults who are not considered a risk to society. Custodial establishments include all other types of prison including those where inmates serve an active sentence for a crime they have been convicted of. These include all adult prisons and youth detention centers.
There are three main reasons why more women are in prison than men: girls and women make up nearly half of all prisoners; black men are six times more likely than white men to be imprisoned; and one in five men aged 20-24 is now locked up.
Women are more likely to be sentenced to imprisonment than men. This is because the ways in which we define violence differ between men and women - with men's violence seen as worse than women's violence. Women who are sent to prison tend to receive longer sentences than men who go to prison. This is because the crimes committed by women are often seen as more serious by the court.
In the United Kingdom in 2020, there were roughly 77.42 thousand males and 3.41 thousand women incarcerated. The gender breakdown of the jail population in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2011 to 2020. (in thousands)
|Male population||Female population|
In 1977, there were little more than 11,000 women jailed. By 2004, the number of women in state or federal prison had risen by 757 percent, to more than 111,000, and the percentage of women in jail has risen steadily since 2000, at approximately double the rate of males. Women made up 1 percent of the general population but 5 percent of the prison population in 2004.
Women's incarceration rates increase with age. While only 0.5 percent of 17-year-olds are incarcerated, this figure rises to about 6 percent for those aged 35-44. Incarceration rates for older women also increase with poverty: among women aged 55-64 living below the poverty line, 14 percent are imprisoned, as compared with 4 percent of those living above it. Black women are disproportionately represented in prison; in 2004, they accounted for 63 percent of all female inmates even though they make up less than half of 1 percent of the population.
Prior to the 1970s, women did not appear frequently in the media as criminals. Nowadays, many believe that because women constitute such a small percentage of the total population, they must be responsible for a large proportion of crimes committed. The truth is that men are far more likely to be victims of crime than women are. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 1995, while the number of females in prisons increased by almost 250 percent, the number of male victims rose by 350 percent.
As of 2018, the overall jail population in the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland combined) was around 93,000, with a total prison capacity of approximately 96,000. The entire jail population in the United Kingdom is predicted to increase by at least 500–1,000 convicts every year until the 2020s.
The number of people imprisoned in the United States increased from 2 million to 4 million between 1970 and 2003. It is estimated that 10% of all US adults have been arrested for an offense committed as a juvenile.
In Germany, there were about 5 million inmates in the state prisons and local jails in 2008. This represents about 1 in 100 adults in the population. Also, there are about 1 million individuals under correctional supervision (ie, probationers or parolees) at any given time.
In Australia, there were approximately 740 000 people held in custody across Australia's jurisdictions in 2017. This represented just over 1 in 100 adults in the community. Additionally, there were another 1 in 100 adults on probation or parole.
Worldwide, there are more than 70 million people incarcerated, including 17 million men and 51 million women.
Of these, 85% are confined within 30 days of arrest.
This high rate of incarceration means that one in 100 adults is behind bars. The highest rates are found in the United States and Russia.
The rate at which women are imprisoned varies substantially by state. In 2019, 61 out of every 100,000 women were imprisoned on a countrywide scale. Idaho has the highest rate of female incarceration (138), while Massachusetts has the lowest percentage of female incarceration (10).
Women make up an increasing proportion of all prison inmates. In 2000, they represented 12 percent of the general population and 20 percent of those under 18 years old. Today, that figure has increased to 16 percent and 28 percent respectively.
Women are more likely to be imprisoned for drug-related offenses than men are. In 2018, 70 percent of all female inmates and 57 percent of all male inmates reported using marijuana in the past year. Women are also more likely to be arrested for simple possession of drugs and face longer sentences if convicted.
In addition, women receive much harsher punishments when they become pregnant while in jail or prison. This is because pregnancy affects a woman's ability to care for herself and her child, who would be placed in foster care until an adoptive parent can be found. The mother will then be required to serve most of her sentence again.
There are several factors that may lead to a greater likelihood of a woman being incarcerated. If a woman has a history of criminal behavior, she is more likely to be sentenced to prison. This becomes more likely if the crimes were violent in nature.