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Why are women the fastest growing segment of the prison population?

The California Institution for Women, a state prison for women


On this edition of Your Call, we’ll talk about why the increase of women in prisons has far surpassed the growth of male prisoners in the US.

The number of women behind bars was about eight times higher in 2016 than in 1980, according to The Sentencing Project. They say the rise is due to so-called 'tough on crime' laws, stiffer drug sentencing laws, and poverty. More than half of the women in state prisons have a child under the age of 18. What are the realities of incarceration – and reintegration – for women?


Alison Leal Parker, director of the US Program at Human Rights Watch, an international human rights advocacy and research nonprofit


Lisa James, former resident of the women's re-entry program A New Way of Life, and organizer for All of Us or None, an advocacy organization for currently and formerly incarcerated people


Web Resources:

Associated Press: Portrait of despair: Opioids land more women behind bars

The Crime Report: Mother’s Day Behind Bars

The Sentencing Project: Incarcerated Women and Girls, 1980-2016

The Atlantic: Women in Prison Take Home Economics, While Men Take Carpentry

Huffington Post: Federal Prisons Made Menstrual Products Free. Now Some States May Follow Suit.

Rose Aguilar has been the host of Your Call since 2006. She became a regular Friday media roundtable guest in 2001.