Women in prison: the global picture
The third edition of the World Female Imprisonment List produced by World Prison Brief and the Institute for Criminal Police Research (ICPR) shows the number of women and girls held in penal institutions in 219 prison systems in independent countries and dependent territories. It makes for depressing reading.
The figures include both pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners and those who have been convicted and sentenced. The List also shows the percentage of women and girls within each national prison population and the proportion of the national population that are imprisoned females (the female prison population rate per 100,000 of the national population). The information is the latest available at the end of July 2015.
Here are ten things I learnt from the report.
1: More than 700,000 women and girls are held in penal institutions throughout the world
Figures for seven countries are not available and those for China are incomplete, so the actual total is even higher.
2: More than 200,000 are in the United States of America (205,400).
The countries with the next highest totals are China (103,766 plus an unknown number of women and girls in pretrial detention or ‘administrative detention’), the Russian Federation (53,304), Thailand (44,751), Brazil (37,380), Vietnam (20,553), India (18,188)
and Mexico (13,400).
3: Female prisoners generally constitute between 2% and 9% of a country’s total prison population.
Just eighteen systems have a higher percentage than that. The highest (excluding three very small countries) are Hong Kong-China (19.4%), Macau-China (17.7%), Myanmar (16.3%), Bolivia and Qatar (both 14.7%), Thailand (14.5%), Vietnam (14.4%) and Kuwait (13.8%).
In Africa, the median level is just 2.8%, while Asian countries have the highest median at 6.0%. The world median is 4.4%.
5: The number of women and girls in prison has increased by 50% since the year 2000.
Even though the world population only rose 18% during this period.
6: There are no women in prison in San Marino.
And just two in Gibraltar.
7: 4.6% of the prison population in England and Wales are women.
This compares with 3.2% in Northern Ireland and 5.2% in Scotland.
8: The number of women in prison in Central and South America and South-East Asia has risen very sharply.
The number of women in prison in Guatemala has almost quadrupled since 2001, and has increased eightfold in El Salvador since 2000. The number of women in prison is at almost four time the 2000 level in Brazil and almost three times in Colombia. The women’s prison population in both Cambodia and Indonesia has more than quadrupled since 2000.
9: The rate of women’s imprisonment has grown much faster than that of men.
It is provisionally estimated that the total world prison population has increased by around 20% since 2000, compared with the approximately 50% increase in the number of imprisoned women and girls.
10: The women’s prison population in Asia has risen by 84% in the last 15 years.
Compared to a 3.4% increase in Europe.