The Women Of Block 12: Voices From A Jail Ministry by Linda Pischke

Facts About Women in Prison


  • Women are the fastest growing and least violent segment of prison and jail populations. Eighty-five percent of female jail inmates are behind bars for nonviolent offenses. (John Irwin, Ph.D. Vincent Schiraldi, and Jason Ziedenberg, America's One Million Nonviolent Prisoners, Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute, March 1999, P 6-7)

  • The number of women incarcerated in prisons and jails in the USA is approximately ten times more than the number of women incarcerated in Western European countries, even though Western Europe's combined female population is about the same size as that of the USA. (Amnesty International, "Not Part of My Sentence: Violations of the Human Rights of Women in Custody", Washington, DC: Amnesty International, March 1999, p. 15)

  • About one in five female inmates receive medication for psychological or emotional problems since admission to prison. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000).

  • About one-half of women offenders in state prisons had used alcohol, drugs, or both at the time of offense. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000).

  • A survey of 235 inmates at Chicago's Cook County Jail found that the "typical woman prisoner" is African American...is most likely homeless before entering jail, and is at high risk of being homeless upon release. She is most likely a survivor of childhood abuse and adult violence at the hands of a partner. She may have a substance abuse history or an emotional or mental health problem, possibly linked to her prior experiences of abuse, for which she could not access treatment and care...(She) has limited education, experiences, low levels of employment, and has been detained two to five times thus far. She may also be regularly involved in prostitution for a survival need such as a place to stay or to satisfy an untreated addiction. (Unlocking Options for Women: A Survey of Women in Cook County Jail by Samir Goswami and Anice Schervish).