Women and gender

There are 231,000 women locked up in the United States. While scarcely 10 percent of the total incarcerated population, women still represent a larger portion of people in prisons and jails than in previous decades. Moreover, in many states, women's incarceration rates are continuing to grow faster than men's.

But the experiences of women — as well as trans and nonbinary people — are too often lost, because men comprise the vast majority of the incarcerated population.

Our research is shedding light on the injustices faced by women and LGBTQ+ people behind bars, as well as on issues like money bail and family separation that disproportionately affect women.

Below is some of our key research:


report thumbnailWomen's Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2019

Our report breaks down where and why 231,000 women are locked up in the U.S. One striking finding: More women are locked up in local jails than in state prisons.

report thumbnailStates of Women's Incarceration: The Global Context 2018

We rank U.S. states on their rates of women's incarceration, comparing states to each other and to countries around the world. The report also shows the growth of women's incarceration in the U.S. over the last century.

report thumbnailThe Gender Divide: Tracking women's state prison growth

Our report breaks down women's incarceration trends in state prisons for all 50 states since 1978, and identifies states where criminal justice reforms have left women behind.

report thumbnailDetaining the Poor: How money bail perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty and jail time

We find that the ability to pay money bail is impossible for too many women because it represents almost a year of the typical female defendant's income.

report thumbnailPrisons of Poverty: Uncovering the pre-incarceration incomes of the imprisoned

We show that even before their incarceration, people in prison are much poorer than Americans of similar ages. This was the first report to provide national data on the pre-incarceration incomes of incarcerated women.


issue thumbnailJails and bail

In stark contrast to incarcerated men, who are mostly held in state prisons, close to half of all incarcerated women are in local jails. We explain why so many people are in local jails, and how jails separate families.

issue thumbnailHealth and drug policy

Incarcerated women are even more likely than incarcerated men to suffer from substance use disorders, mental illnesses, and other health problems.

issue thumbnailProbation and parole

Three out of four women under correctional control are not behind bars, but on probation. Our research uncovers the harms of community supervision.

Research Library

Didn't find what you were looking for? We also curate a database of virtually all the empirical criminal justice research available online. See the sections of our Research Library on women and LGBTQ issues.

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