Number of Jailed Women Skyrockets in Rural Counties

The female jail population in small counties has nearly doubled since 2000
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2016 3:30 PM CDT
Number of Jailed Women Surges as Male Inmates Decline
In this May 26, 2016 photo, a female inmate uses a phone inside the Canyon County Jail in Caldwell, Idaho.   (KTVB 7)

The number of women locked up in jails around the country is increasing at a level not matched by the male jail population, according to a report released by the MacArthur Foundation and Vera Institute. The Guardian reports there were 14 times more women in US jails in 2014 than in 1970. Most of the increase comes from jails in small, rural counties, where incarceration rates for women nearly doubled between 2000 and 2014, according to the New York Times. The number of women in jail in the most populous counties actually declined during that time. One of the report's authors tells NPR the reason may be that rural counties lack resources besides jail for women with mental illnesses and other issues.

The report found about one-third of jailed women have a serious mental illness—approximately double the rate for jailed men. Women are also two-thirds of the victims of sexual abuse by jail staff despite being only 13% of the jail population. For these and other reasons, the report's authors conclude jailed women are more vulnerable than their male counterparts. Furthermore, they are largely jailed for minor infractions that don't impact public safety, such as failing to appear in court for a citation. There were about 110,000 women in jail on misdemeanor charges in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of men in jail—not to mention the overall crime rate—has been declining. (More jail stories.)

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