Female Prison Ministry


The United States incarcerates people at a higher rate than any other nation in the world [29]. Although the overall U.S. prison population declined in 2010 for the first time since 1972 as a result of a decrease in prison admissions, at yearend 2010, more than 1.6 million people were incarcerated in state or federal prisons [14]. If we add people imprisoned in local jails to these numbers, over 2.2 million people—or approximately 1 in every 104 adults—are incarcerated in prisons or jails [11].

More men than women are imprisoned, with incarceration rates for men and women at 938 and 67 per 100,000 male and female residents[14]. However, women’s incarceration rates have increased faster than those of men since 1977: the women’s prison population grew by 832% between 1977 and 2007, whereas the men’s prison population grew 416% during that period [30, 32]. There are over 200,000 women in U.S. prisons; women comprise about 7% of the prison population [14, 32]. More than half a million women and girls are imprisoned around the world, with the U.S. holding about one-third of this population [29].

Who are the women behind bars?
• Imprisoned women are disproportionately racial and ethnic minorities. At yearend 2010, Black women (133 per 100,000
Black female residents) had an imprisonment rate almost three times higher than that of white women (47 per 100,000);
Latinas rate of imprisonment fell between that of Black women and white women (77 per 100,000 Latina residents) [14].
• Increasing numbers of prisoners are migrant women, particularly from Central and South America [8].

• Approximately 42% of women in state prisons have not graduated high school [31].
• Between 57 and 75% of imprisoned women experienced physical, psychological, and/or sexual violence before prison, which
is higher than the 43% of non-imprisoned women who report violence [23].

Some studies suggest that the percentage of
imprisoned women who experienced violence is higher than 75% [26].
• Seventy-three percent of women in state prison (and 55% of men), have been diagnosed with a mental health problem [16].

• Seventy-four percent of women prisoners report that they regularly used drugs prior to their incarceration [20].
• Many incarcerated women have serious physical health problems, including hepatitis, diabetes, and HIV infection.
• Sixty-two percent of women in state prisons are mothers to children under 18 years of age [12].

• Non-heterosexual and gender non-conforming women are more likely to receive lengthier sentences than heterosexual, or
gender conforming, women, and once in the system are subject to heterosexism and homophobia [19].
• As of December 2011, there were 58 women on death row, which is 1.8% of the total death row population [5].

Why are so many women behind bars, and why has the women’s incarceration rate increased so much faster than that of men? Despite the fact that media images have framed imprisoned women as violent and out of control [17], women’s high incarceration rates are not a result of rising crimes rates or a “more violent offender” [4].
• At yearend 2010, about one-third of imprisoned women were sentenced for violent crimes. About 56% of imprisoned women were sentenced for drug or property crimes [14].

• Drug offenses are the largest source of growth for the women’s prison population. About one-third of women (and one-fifth of men), serve time for drug offenses as compared to 1 in 10 imprisoned women in 1979 [10].

• Mandatory minimum sentences and sentencing guidelines emerged largely from the war on drugs in the 1980s. These measures require judges to hand down lengthy sentences based on the amount of the drug and presence of a weapon, without taking into consideration extenuating circumstances, prior records, context of the crime, abuse that could have led to addiction, or the low-level role that the woman may have played.

Although women tend to play minor roles in drug crimes (such as petty sales), women drug offenders are likelier to be arrested, convicted, and incarcerated than they were prior to the war on drugs. Mandatory sentencing and sentencing enhancements eliminated judicial considerations of women’s role as primary caretakers of children, so women are removed from their families even if they played a very minor role in the crime.
• Many women became involved in drugs because of economic need or physical coercion by male partners [6].

• Mandatory minimum sentences and sentencing guidelines have been found to disproportionately target Black women [22].
• Other “get tough on crime” measures like Three Strikes have helped to increase the rates of women’s imprisonment. In states
like California, the third strike need not be a violent felony to get a woman 25 years to life in prison.

• A smaller number of women are incarcerated for killing their abusers in self-defense. Although detailed statistics on this type
of crime are unavailable, estimates suggest that between 2,000 and 4,000 women are imprisoned for killing their abusers [28].
• Laws such as the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration
Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) have served to criminalize migrant women. IRCA extended the war on drugs to the border,

Original source

4 thoughts on “Female Prison Ministry

  1. ”• Seventy-four percent of women prisoners report that they regularly used drugs prior to their incarceration [20].”

    The preconceived erroneous notion that addicts are simply weak-willed and/or have committed a moral crime is gradually dying. Also, we now know that pharmaceutical corporations intentionally pushed their very addictive and profitable opiates — I call it the real moral crime — for which they got off relatively lightly, considering the resulting immense suffering and overdose death numbers.

    I used to be one of those who, while sympathetic, would look down on those who’d ‘allowed’ themselves to become addicted to alcohol and illicit drugs. Yet, though I have not been personally affected by the opioid addiction/overdose crisis, I myself have suffered enough unrelenting ACE-related hyper-anxiety to have known, enjoyed and appreciated the great release upon consuming alcohol and/or THC.

    Upon learning that serious life trauma, notably adverse childhood experiences, is very often behind the addict’s debilitating addiction, I began to understand ball-and-chain self-medicating: The greater the drug-induced euphoria or escape one attains from its use, the more one wants to repeat the experience; and the more intolerable one finds their sober reality, the more pleasurable that escape should be perceived. By extension, the greater one’s mental pain or trauma while sober, the greater the need for escape from reality, thus the more addictive the euphoric escape-form will likely be. …

    Emotional/psychological trauma from unhindered toxic abuse usually results in a helpless child’s brain improperly developing. If allowed to continue for a prolonged period, it can act as a starting point into a life in which the brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines. I consider it a form of non-physical-impact brain damage.

    The lasting emotional and/or psychological pain from such trauma is very formidable yet invisibly confined to inside one’s head. It is solitarily suffered, unlike an openly visible physical disability or condition, which tends to elicit sympathy/empathy from others. It can make every day a mental ordeal, unless the turmoil is treated with some form of medicating, either prescribed or illicit.


    1. Drugs are door openers of crime, direct and indirect. Thank you for sharing back. Our words, knowledge and experiences are a great help at lifting up others during these uncertain times. God Bless.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Some of these stats just don’t add up, e.g., if there are 1 in every 104 adults incarcerated in prisons or jails, how do the authors figure an incarceration rate for men and women at 938 and 67 per 100,000 male and female residents? More than just these stats are misleading.
    Many factors are involved in racial disparities, not just racism, although simply stating the stat makes it look like the policies are racist.
    Education does not guarantee a reduction in criminal behavior; it just produces smarter criminals, sometimes just better equipped to beat the system.
    See Matthew 25:31-46: “When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right in target. Once there were more minorities. I wonder, how are prison counts conducted today? Stats are always misleading for me. To fully understand, we should conduct our own samplings and use our own math.

      Liked by 1 person

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