Women's Voices

As incarceration rates for men drop in some states, efforts to decarcerate jails and prisons have largely left women behind—and it’s women who are leading the charge to right these wrongs.

The number of women incarcerated in the United States has skyrocketed in the last four decades, increasing 475 percent since 1980. In 2019, there were more than 231,000 women and girls held in prisons and jails across the country. It’s hard to believe that 50 years ago, almost 75 percent of counties held not a single woman in jail.

Women have become the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population. Although men’s jail populations actually fell 9 percent from 2008 to 2018, women’s jail populations grew 15 percent. Women's incarceration rates are also climbing at double the rate of men’s in state prisons across the country. It’s clear that decarceration efforts are leaving women behind.

This series highlights the stories of advocates who are working tirelessly to support people—including women and girls—who have been impacted by the criminal legal system. They shed light on the compounding harms of incarceration, advocate for policy changes to create justice for all, and empower others to do the same.

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