The Department of Corrections (DOC) in Washington is shifting to more gender-specific treatment of women in prisons. (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times/MCT)
Mass Incarceration Women in Prisons

Rates of Women Incarceration Worldwide Higher Than Population Growth

The rates at which women are getting locked up globally are becoming very alarming. They are thrown into prisons in every country at rates higher than the population growths of each country. To make matters worse, women are incarcerated for many offenses that men would walk for ultimately.

With millions of women entering the labor market everyday, the bar on women incarceration is raised. This is largely because anything a working woman does is prone to criminalization.

Globalization has ejected many women from the kitchen into the labor market, increasing their susceptibility to punishable offenses.

College-in-Prison Program for Women Inmates of Cuomo
College-in-Prison Program for Women Inmates of Cuomo. Image Source: lohud

Rates of Women Incarceration Exceed Rates of Population Growth Globally

There is the age-long adage that whatever a man can do, a woman can do better. This is becoming truer in the area of incarceration. More women and girls are going to prisons all around the world while the total imprisonment rate is on the decline.

What this means is that while governments everywhere are trying to reduce imprisonment rates, more women still make their way to prison. And this is especially the case in the United States.

Statistical research says a total of 714,000 girls and women are incarcerated worldwide. But 212,000 out of this number are incarcerated within the United States. Furthermore, the rate at which women and girls are thrown into prison double and triple the rate of population growth in these areas:

  • The Americas
  • Asia
  • Oceania
Women Behind Bars
Women Behind Bars
Image Source: Idaho Press

While men may walk free for minor offences, women get incarcerated for them. Incidentally, the reasons behind female incarceration across the world are almost identical. In fact, many of the reasons are not far-fetched from violence against women. Taking Central America for an example, women face the mounting problems of:

  • Rape
  • Trafficking
  • Domestic abuse
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Cultural limitations

Yet women get thrown into prisons in this region based on any offense related to any of the above. To buttress this point, the number of women and girls incarcerated in Guatemala and El Salvador are five-fold and ten-fold higher respectively than the female prison population for 2001 and 2000 in each country.

The same can be said for South America and Southeast Asia.

Governments Advance Women Inclusiveness, Yet Incarcerate More Women

Conversely, increasing gender-based violence and female incarceration rate are linked to rising female profiles and economic freedom in the society. This means the more visible women are getting in the society, the more gender-based violence and incarcerations they face.

Susan Burton (left), Founder of a New Way of Life Foundation
Susan Burton (left), Founder of a New Way of Life Foundation
Image Source: USA Today

This is the side-effect of globalization on emerging women freedom. This phenomenon can be seen in:

  • North America
  • Europe
  • Parts of Asia
  • Latin America
  • Africa

Civil rights advocates are however confused about one thing: why are national governments clamoring for more women inclusion in public life when they remain the targets of indiscriminate incarceration? Why is the system promoting women values and emancipation the same dragging them into jails and prisons?

Experts reveal that economic exploitation makes women the underdog even in offenses committed by men.  That is why men commit offenses by their spouses or female partners get picked up by the police. In certain cases, police has been found framing women and girls for misdeeds done by men.

Yet women are found to be willing stooges in these scenarios because they require the economic supports provided by their abuse male partners. This fact underscores a point: criminalization and women abuse go hand-in-hand in poor communities.

Recidivism in the American Justice System: Female Incarceration Growth Chart
Recidivism in the American Justice System: Female Incarceration Growth Chart
Image Source: USA Today

The Whole Society Suffers When Women Are Incarcerated Indiscriminately

Teresa Njoroge, a former inmate and member of Kenya-based NGO Clean Start has more to say women incarceration. She discovered during her imprisonment that almost all women prisoners suffer the pains of:

  • Social isolation
  • Family abandonment
  • Being reduced to number tags
  • Lopsided justice system
  • Economic inequalities

A combination of these factors work together to land women and girls in prison, worldwide. When women are hedged in by the above factors, they get driven to petty survival crimes that fetch them due incarceration.

This is a problem everywhere in the world. One thing the governments however fail to understand is that the imprisoning women indiscriminately comes with social and economic costs to the society.

The Department of Corrections (DOC) in Washington is shifting to more gender-specific treatment of women in prisons. (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times/MCT)
The Department of Corrections (DOC) in Washington is shifting to more gender-specific treatment of women in prisons. (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times/MCT)

Imprisoning Disadvantaged Women and Mothers

New studies reveal that the supposed benefits of imprisoning women do not measure up to corresponding economic and social costs. In simple terms, the society suffers when women are indiscriminately imprisoned in a world where they are already at a disadvantage.

This is largely because most women prisoners are mothers and breadwinners with little ones to support.

Incarcerating them for forgivable offenses causes their children to suffer with the consequence of pushing them into punishable crimes.

While it becomes the responsibility of family and relatives to cater for children with incarcerated mothers, the financial burden of incarcerating women is crippling to the government.

The conclusive message is simple: the government plays a double standard where they promote women rights and emancipation, yet herd them off into incarceration for the slightest offenses.

Charles Omedo
Charles Omedo has a degree in Mass Communication and a PGD in Digital Communication. He worked as a newspaper/magazine reporter and editor for many years. Now, he writes daily news articles for private clients. Charles has written for US/UK/Canadian/Indian clients on various niches. He currently writes prison news for loved ones of inmates on the Prison Rideshare Network.
https://prisonrideshare.org/nonprofit/