A report released today by the Prison Policy Initiative and the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice presents the most recent and comprehensive data on how many women are locked up in the U.S., in what kinds of facilities, and why; as well as detailed data on incarcerated women’s demographic makeup and health.

Women in the U.S. experience a dramatically different criminal legal system than men do, but data on their experiences is difficult to find and put into context. The new edition of Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie, which the Prison Policy Initiative and ACLU have published since 2017, fills this gap with richly-annotated data visualizations about women behind bars.

The report reveals that the number of women behind bars fell significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is already rapidly returning to pre-pandemic levels. “The drop in women’s incarceration that we saw in 2020 was the kind of change needed to actually start ending the mass incarceration of women,” said report co-author Aleks Kajstura. “Unfortunately, because the changes during the first year of COVID-19 were due more to systemic slowdowns than policy changes, we’re already seeing the downward trend being reversed and more vulnerable women ending up in prison.”

The report highlights the importance of jails — an under-discussed part of the criminal legal system — to the story of women’s incarceration. Approximately the same number of women are locked up in jails as in state prisons. Jails are built for short stays, meaning that the disproportionate number of women locked up in jails (compared to incarcerated men) are stuck in facilities with worse healthcare and less programming.

Read the full article about women's mass incarceration at Prison Policy Initiative.