A 2017 DOJ study found that incarcerated women reported histories of mental illness at rates nearly twice that of incarcerated men.Manuel Villa, “The Mental Health Crisis Facing Women in Prison,” The Marshall Project, June 22, 2017; and BJS, Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners and Jail Inmates, 2011-12 (Washington, DC: BJS, 2017).
The study reflects an increasing recognition of substantial differences between female and male incarcerated populations and their distinctive needs, as well as the need to employ gender-responsive practices.
While there are far fewer women in prison than men, and women are incarcerated at a lower rate, the United States nevertheless incarcerates women at a significantly higher rate than other countries and is home to nearly 30 percent of the world’s incarcerated women.Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon, “States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context,” Prison Policy Initiative.
Moreover, between 2000 and 2015, the rate of female incarceration in America grew by nearly 20 percent, compared to growth in the overall incarceration rate of roughly 1 percent over the same period.Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon, “States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context,” Prison Policy Initiative.; and World Prison Brief, “United States of America”
The burdens of imprisonment do not fall equally on all women: black women were nearly twice as likely as white women to be imprisoned.Carson, “Prisoners in 2016” (2018), at 13.
At the national level, in July 2017, U.S. senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act to improve conditions of confinement and strengthen family ties by, for example, expanding visitation policies for imprisoned mothers and banning the shackling of pregnant women in the federal prison system.For the text of the bill, see Dignity Act, S. 1524, 115th Cong. (2017). Also see Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, “Booker and Warren: Women in Prison Deserve Dignity,” CNN, September 5, 2017.
The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and appears unlikely to receive a hearing.Congress.gov, “S.1524 - Dignity Act: Actions Overview,”