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Changing Racial Dynamics of Women's Incarceration

NCJ Number
Marc Mauer
Date Published
February 2013
26 pages
This study by the Sentencing Project examined the changing racial dynamics of women's incarceration.
This study examined the changing racial dynamics of incarcerated persons, especially as they pertain to women. The study found that in 2009, African-American males and Hispanic males were incarcerated in State and Federal prisons at rates 6.4 times and 2.4 times higher, respectively, than non-Hispanic White males. In addition, it was found that between 2000 and 2009, incarceration rates for Black men declined by almost 10 percent while incarceration rates for Black women declined by almost 31 percent. At the same time, however, incarceration rates for White men and women rose 8.5 percent and 47.1 percent, respectively, while the incarceration rate for Hispanic women rose by 23.3 percent. These changes have led to a dramatic shift in racial disparities among incarcerated women. In 2000, Black women were incarcerated at 6 times the rate of White women, but the increase in the rate of incarceration for White women has caused this ratio to fall to 2.8:1. Similar trends can be seen for Hispanic women and White women, Black men and White men, and Hispanic men and non-Hispanic White men. Based on these findings, a set of recommendations is presented: conduct State-based analyses of changes in disparity; establish statewide racial disparity task forces; adopt proactive racial disparity assessments; and provide technical assistance to aid jurisdictions in addressing disparities. Data for this study were obtained from Bureau of Justice Statistic reports on prison populations for the years 2000 through 2011. The purpose of the study was to examine the trends in incarceration, the racial and gender disparities in incarceration, and the changing racial dynamics in women's incarceration. The study found that several factors have contributed to these changes, including changes in drug and arrest laws, changing socioeconomic situations for women, and changes in level of involvement in crime for different groups of women. Tables, figures, and appendix