Peter Wagner, Executive Director
I need your help. For more than a decade, the Prison Policy Initiative has been at the forefront of the movement to expose how mass incarceration undermines our national welfare. We've won major civil rights victories in local governments, state legislatures and even the Supreme Court. But our long-term viability depends on people like you investing in our work.

Can you stand up for smart and effective justice policy by joining our small network of donors today? You can make a one-time gift, or even become one of our sustaining monthly donors.

Through the end of 2014, your contribution will stretch twice as far thanks to a match commitment from a small group of other donors like you.

I thank you for investing in our work towards a more just tomorrow.
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Impact of the justice system on women

  • Bias Behind Bars: Decreasing Disproportionate Rates of Incarcerated Women in California and Nationwide for Low-Level Offenses, [PDF]
    The Women's Foundation of California, October, 2014
    “Nationally-but especially in California-women have been incarcerated for nonviolent, poverty-related offenses at disproportionate rates compared to men.”
  • Worse Than Second-Class: Solitary Confinement of Women in the United States, [PDF]
    American Civil Liberties Union, April, 2014
    “...solitary is often used on the most vulnerable: pregnant women, individuals with mental illness, transgender women, and - in a particularly disturbing trend - victims of sexual assault by prison guards.”
  • No More Shackles A report on... California's counties under the new law that limits the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners, [PDF]
    Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, February, 2014
    “...specification that a prisoner known to be pregnant or in recovery after delivery shall never be restrained by the use of leg irons, waist chains, or handcuffs from behind the body.”
  • When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2011 Homicide Data, [PDF]
    Violence Policy Center, September, 2013
    “For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 94 percent of female victims (1,509 out of 1,601) were murdered by a male they knew.”
  • Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010 [PDF]
    Bureau of Justice Statistics, March, 2013
    “From 1995 to 2010, the estimated annual rate of female rape or sexual assault victimizations declined 58%, from 5.0 victimizations per 1,000 females age 12 or older to 2.1 per 1,000.”
  • The Changing Racial Dynamics of Women's Incarceration [PDF]
    Sentencing Project, February, 2013
    “In 2000 black women were incarcerated at six times the rate of white women. By 2009 that ratio had declined by 53%, to 2.8:1. This shift was a result of both declining incarceration of African American women and rising incarceration of white women.”
  • Arrests of and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women in the United States, 1973-2005: Implications for Women's Legal Status and Public Health, [PDF]
    National Advocates for Pregnant Women, January, 2013
    “Findings confirm that if passed, personhood measures not only would provide a basis for recriminalizing abortion, they would also provide grounds for depriving all pregnant women of their liberty.”
  • Girls' Experiences in the Texas Juvenile Justice System 2012 Survey Findings, [PDF]
    Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, October, 2012
    “46% of the surveyed girls report that the staff, programs, and treatment in county juvenile facilities did not help them deal with past trauma; an additional 4% said that county facilities actually did more harm than good in dealing with past trauma.”
  • Improving the Juvenile Justice System for Girls Lessons from the States, [PDF]
    Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy, October, 2012
    “The set of challenges that girls often face as they enter the juvenile justice system include trauma, violence, neglect, mental and physical problems, family conflict, pregnancy, residential and academic instability, and school failure.”
  • Women's pathways to jail: The roles & intersections of serious mental illness & trauma, [PDF]
    Bureau of Justice Assistance, September, 2012
    “[C]hildhood victimization and adult trauma increased the risk of poor mental health, and poor mental health predicted a greater offending history.”
  • Representing Girls in the Juvenile Justice System [PDF]
    North Carolina Office of the Juvenile Defender, August, 2012
    “In an effort to provide information to defense counsel, this document provides a compilation of research regarding girls in the juvenile justice system and suggests best practices and strategies for defense counsel representing girls.”
  • World Female Imprisonment List 2nd Edition Women and girls in penal institutions, including pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners, [PDF]
    International Centre for Prison Studies, August, 2012
    “More than 625,000 women and girls are held in penal institutions throughout the world,”
  • Half of Women on Probation or Parole Experience Mental Illness [PDF]
    SAMHSA, March, 2012
    “[A]mong women aged 18 to 49, about half of those who had been on probation (49.4%) or on parole (54.2%) in the past year experienced any mental illness in the past year, compared with 27.5 percent of women who had not been on probation or parole.”
  • Best Practices in the Use of Restraints with Pregnant Women and Girls Under Correctional Custody, [PDF]
    Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2012
    “The use of restraints on pregnant women and girls under correctional custody should be limited to absolute necessity. The use of restraints is considered absolutely necessary only when there is an imminent risk of escape or harm...”
  • Motivation for Treatment Among Women Offenders in Prison-Based Treatment and Longitudinal Outcomes Among Those Who Participate in Community Aftercare, [PDF]
    National Institutes of Health, September, 2011
    “Participants who completed the aftercare program, or who had longer treatment duration, and those who had participated in an in-prison program prior to parole had reduced risk of recidivism.”
  • Creating the Roadmap for Reduction Reducing the Number of Women in Prison in Alabama, [PDF]
    Justice Policy Institute, April, 2011
    “In the summer of 2009, Corrections and JPI staff recognized the opportunity to expedite the reclassification of currently-incarcerated women using the new classification module and the need to add capacity to identify women who can be safely released.”
  • When More is Less How a Larger Women's Jail in Baltimore will Reduce Public Safety and Diminish Resources for Positive Social Investments, [PDF]
    Justice Policy Institute, January, 2011
    “Given that research indicates that increased incarceration does not equal less crime—it actually is the opposite — the negative public safety, economic and community impacts of the planned expansion are not justifiable.”
  • The Intersectionality of Race, Gender, and Reentry Challenges for African-American Women, [PDF]
    American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, November, 2010
    “African-American women offenders face collateral attacks on their motherhood, on their ability to secure housing and employment, and on their ability to reintegrate. Reentry programs must have a race and gender focus that confronts intersectionality.”
  • Mothers Behind Bars State-by-state report card and analysis of federal policies on conditions of confinement for pregnant & parenting women, [PDF]
    The Rebecca Project for Human Rights, The National Women's Law Center, October, 2010
    “38 states received failing grades for their failure to institute adequate policies, or any policies at all, requiring that incarcerated pregnant women receive adequate prenatal care, despite the fact that many women in prison have higher-risk pregnancies.”
  • Women in Law Enforcement 1987-2008 [PDF]
    Bureau of Justice Statistics, June, 2010
    “Overall, the precent of sworn federal law enforcement officers who were women increased slightly from 1998 to 2008.”
  • Study of Incarcerated Women and Their Children [PDF]
    Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, January, 2010
    “Over three‐fourths of the women had only a high school education or less. Two‐thirds had been physically and/or sexually abused as a child.”
  • Female Victims of Violence [PDF]
    Bureau of Justice Statistics, September, 2009
    “The rate of intimate partner violence against females declined 53% between 1993 and 2008, from 9.4 victimizations per 1,000 females age 12 or older to 4.3 per 1,000. Against males, the rate declined 54%.”
  • Mothers, Infants and Imprisonment A National Look at Prison Nurseries and Community-Based Alternatives, [PDF]
    Women's Prison Association, May, 2009
    “Though every state has seen a dramatic rise in its women's prison population over the past three decades, only nine states have prison nursery programs in operation or under development.”
  • Gender-Responsive Programs Addressing the Needs of Female Offenders, [PDF]
    American Correctional Association (Mary L. Livers and Tomi Hiers), August, 2007
    “Surveys taken of staff [...] indicated that [gender-responsive] training taught them awareness of the pathways of women into prison, how to effectively communicate with female offenders, sensitivity training, and the importance of family contacts and ties”
  • The Nation's Most Punitive States for Women [PDF]
    National Council on Crime and Delinquency, July, 2007
    “This Fact Sheet reports the latest state and national data available for women and girls involved in local and state corrections systems across the nation.”
  • Women in the Criminal Justice System Briefing Sheets, [PDF]
    Sentencing Project, May, 2007
    “In state prisons in 1998, 23.6% of women were identified as mentally ill, compared to 15.8% of men, while in federal prisons the proportions were 12.5% of women and 7% of men.”
  • Reducing the Incarceration of Women: Community-Based Alternatives, [PDF]
    National Council on Crime and Delinquency, December, 2006
    “Typically nonviolent low-level offenders, women have been hit particularly hard by California's sentencing and correctional policies and practices.”
  • When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2004 Homicide Data, [PDF]
    The Violence Policy Center, September, 2006
    “[O]ffers both national and state-by-state statistics from FBI Supplementary Homicide Report data including charts listing the number and rate of female homicides by state and a chart ranking each state by rate.”
  • World Female Imprisonment List (Women and girls in penal institutions, including pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners), [PDF]
    International Centre for Prison Studies, King's College, September, 2006
    “More than half a million women and girls are held in penal institutions throughout the world... [a]bout a third of these are in the United States of America.”
  • A Rallying Cry for Change: Charting a New Direction in the State of Florida's Response to Girls in the Juvenile Justice System, [PDF]
    National Council on Crime and Delinquency, July, 2006
    “Depression, trauma, anger, self-destructive behavior, or other mental health/clinical diagnoses were a factor for 79% of girls in residential and 84% of girls in non-residential programs.”
  • The Punitiveness Report-Hard Hit: The Growth in the Imprisonment of Women, 1977-2004,
    Women's Prison Association - Institute on Women & Criminal Justice, May, 2006
  • The Spiral of Risk: Health Care Provision to Incarcerated Women, [PDF]
    National Council on Crime and Delinquency, March, 2006
    “Female offenders commonly face a wide range of serious health problems.... Their health problems typically predate their involvement in the justice system, are often exacerbated while they are imprisoned, and continue to deteriorate after release.”
  • Caught in the Net: The Impact of Drug Policies on Women and Families, [PDF]
    ACLU, Break the Chains and Brennan Center, March, 2005
  • Women In Prison In Massachusetts: Maintaining Family Connections, [PDF]
    Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, March, 2005
  • Double Jeopardy: A Report on Training and Educational Programs for New Hampshire's Female Offenders, [PDF]
    New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Women, December, 2004
  • Breaking the Barriers for Women on Parole [PDF]
    Little Hoover Commission, December, 2004
    “At the time of their arrest, half of these women were taking care of their children; two-thirds of those women were single parents.”
    (This report looks at incarceration patterns for women in California and proposes solutions for the problems identified.)
  • Hard Data on Hard Times An Empirical Analysis of Maternal Incarceration, Foster Care and Visitation, [PDF]
    Vera Institute of Justice, August, 2004
  • Custodial Sexual Misconduct Laws: A State-by-State Legislative Review, [PDF]
    Stop Prisoner Rape (now known as Just Detention International), July, 2004
    (Check for more recent information)
  • Findings and Opportunities: Family Violence in Central New Mexico, [PDF]
    Urban Institute, May, 2004
  • Felony Disenfranchisement Rates for Women [PDF]
    Sentencing Project, March, 2004
  • The Sexual Abuse of Female Inmates in Ohio [PDF]
    Stop Prisoner Rape, December, 2003
  • There are over 97,000 women in prisons today. They are.... [PDF]
    Women's Prison Association, December, 2003
    (includes comparisons to men)
  • Patterns of Criminal Conviction and Incarceration Among Mothers of Children in Foster Care in New York City, [PDF]
    Vera Institute of Justice, December, 2003
  • Challenges facing women before prison may remain upon release [PDF]
    Women's Prison Association, October, 2003
  • Research, Practice and Guiding Principles for Women Offenders Gender Responsive Strategies, [PDF]
    National Institute of Corrections, June, 2003
  • The population of women in prison increases rapidly [PDF]
    Women's Prison Association, March, 2003
  • Treatment of Incarcerated Women With Substance Abuse and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, [PDF]
    National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), July, 2002
  • Unlocking Options for Women A Survey of Women in Cook County Jail, [PDF]
    Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, April, 2002
  • Life Sentences: Denying Welfare Benefits to Women Convicted of Drug Offenses, [PDF]
    Sentencing Project, February, 2002
  • Innocents in Jail: INS Moves Refugee Women from Krome to Turner Guilford Knight CC, Miami, [PDF]
    Women's Commission for Refugee Women & Children, June, 2001
    (follow-up to Behind Locked Doors)
  • Justice by Gender: The Lack of Appropriate Prevention, Diversion and Treatment Alternatives for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System, [PDF]
    American Bar Association, May, 2001
  • Sexual Victimization of College Women [PDF]
    Bureau of Justice Statistics, January, 2001
  • Women Offenders [PDF]
    Bureau of Justice Statistics, December, 2000
    “About 2.1 million violent female offenders annually. Most commit simple assaults against other females”
  • Abuse of Women in Custody: Sexual Misconduct and Shackling of Pregnant Women, [Website]
    Amnesty International, 2000
    (includes a detailed state by state survey)
  • Some Days Are Harder Than Hard: Welfare Reform and Women With Drug Convictions in Pennsylvania, [PDF]
    Center for Law and Social Policy, December, 1999
  • Gender and Justice: Women, Drugs, and Sentencing Policy, [PDF]
    Sentencing Project, October, 1999
  • Women in Prison: Sexual Misconduct by Correctional Staff, [PDF]
    General Accounting Office, June, 1999
  • Not Part of My Sentence Violations of the Human Rights of Women in Custody, [Website]
    Amnesty International, March, 1999
  • Nowhere to Hide: Retaliation Against Women in Michigan State Prisons,
    Human Rights Watch, September, 1998
  • Female Victims of Violent Crime [PDF]
    Bureau of Justice Statistics, December, 1996
  • All Too Familiar: Sexual Abuse of Women in U.S. State Prisons,
    Human Rights Watch, December, 1996
    (summary and recommendations only)
  • Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned National Crime Victimization Survey, [PDF]
    Bureau of Justice Statistics, August, 1995
  • Women in Prison [PDF]
    Bureau of Justice Statistics, March, 1994

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Meet us

  • December 22, 2014:
    Peter Wagner will be on Bill Newman’s show on WHMP at 9:18am to talk about the fight for prison phone justice in Western Mass and nationwide.
  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.

Not near you?
Invite us to your city, college or organization.


  • December 22, 2014:
    Peter Wagner will be on Bill Newman’s show on WHMP at 9:18am to talk about the fight for prison phone justice in Western Mass and nationwide.
  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.

Not near you?
Invite us to your city, college or organization.


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