More than 625,000 women and girls in prison around the world, new report shows

More than 625,000 women and girls in prison around the world, new report published by the International Centre for Prison Studies on the occasion of International Women’s Day shows.

Over 625,000 women and girls are held in penal institutions throughout the world according to the second edition of the World Female Imprisonment List, produced by Roy Walmsley and published by the International Centre for Prison Studies, a partner of the University of Essex. The report can be downloaded here.

The study provides information for most countries in the world about the female prison population and the percentage of the total prison population they comprise. It also includes information about trends in female imprisonment.

It shows that almost a third of women and girls in prison are in the USA (201,200) and the next three countries in terms of numbers are China (84,600), the Russian Federation (59,200), Brazil (35,596) and Thailand (29,175). The next highest is India (15,400).

Female prisoners generally constitute between 2 and 9% of the total prison population; the three countries that have the highest levels are Maldives (21.6%), Hong Kong-China (20%) and Bahrain (18.5%).

There are continental variations in the prevalence of women and girls within the total prison population. In African countries, they constitute a smaller percentage of the total than elsewhere (the median is 3.1%) and in Asia the median level is almost twice as high (5.95%). The median level in Europe is 4.9%.

The female prison population is growing in all five continents and has increased by 16% since the publication of the first edition of this List in 2006. The prevalence of women and girls within the total prison population has also increased in recent years, especially in Asia and Europe.

Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies, Peter Bennett comments,

“The fact that the female prison population continues to rise, and indeed has risen by a considerable 16% since our last edition of the List in 2006, is a cause for serious concern. Given the high financial and social cost of imprisoning women, the data should prompt policy makers in all countries to consider what they can do to limit the number of women in custody. Excessive use of imprisonment does nothing to improve public safety.”

This edition of the World Female Imprisonment List was researched and compiled by Roy Walmsley, who also produces the World Prison Population List, of which the ninth edition was published by ICPS last year. He is a consultant to the United Nations and Director of the World Prison Brief – the online database of information on the prison systems of the world – which is part of the ICPS website and can be found at www.prisonstudies.org

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