The unique risks, strengths and needs of women are being eclipsed throughout the justice system.

A lack of gender responsive practices is having a direct impact on mass incarceration, and is perpetuating cycles of trauma, victimization and harm among impacted families and communities.
A powerful body of literature reveals important differences in the reasons underlying men and women’s criminal involvement. It demonstrates that the justice pathways of women and girls are disproportionately impacted by sexual violence, domestic abuse, and related trauma, mental illness and poverty. At the same time, gender responsive interventions have been proven to achieve de-carceration, improved safety and more positive outcomes for women.


​​​Disproportionate Histories of Abuse and Trauma
 ​​​​​​​​​​​Justice involved women are more likely to report histories of sexual victimization and trauma, and continue to be vulnerable to victimization within correctional settings.

Trauma such as sexual victimization is often linked to mental health, substance abuse, and relationship difficulties.

Women with histories of abuse and neglect are 77% more likely to be arrested as an adult than their peers who were not abused.

​​​​​Higher Rates of Reported Mental Illness
​​​J​​​​ustice-involved women are more likely to experience co-occurring disorders; in particular, substance abuse problems tend to be interlinked with trauma and/or mental health issues.

The majority of women who suffer from mental illness also have substance abuse disorders.
Women experience mental illness differently than men; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and eating disorders are all more prevalent in justice-involved women than justice-involved men.
Disproportionate Involvement of Women of Color
​​African American women are incarcerated at twice the rate of white women, and rates among Hispanic women are 1.2 times higher.

Black females aged 18 to 19 are three times more likely to be imprisoned than white females, Hispanic females in this age group are twice as likely to be imprisoned than white females.
1 in every 18 African American women will go to prison during their lifetime. This is far greater than the rates for white women and Latinas - 1 in 111 women and 1 in 45 women, respectively.
Higher Rates of Substance Use & Drug Crimes
A large proportion of justice-involved women have used substances or have engaged in criminal behavior while under the influence and/or to support their drug use.

Over 60% of women reported a drug dependence or abuse problem in the year prior to their incarceration.

Current substance abuse among women is a strong direct predictor of prison readmission.​
More Likely to be the Custodial Parent of their Children    ​
More than 60% of women in prison are parents, and are more likely than men to serve as the custodial parent of their children. 
Having a parent in prison can have an impact on a child’s mental health, social behavior, and educational prospects.
Children of incarcerated mothers are at greater risk of dropping out of school and academic challenges.
Higher Rates of Poverty & Unemployment
Women report greater levels of poverty than men and less employment history immediately preceding incarceration.

Formerly incarcerated women face greater challenges securing employment than formerly incarcerated men.

These factors are particularly problematic when considering that women are more likely to have child-rearing responsibilities, particularly as single mothers.

Greater Risks & Challenges Associated with Securing Safe, Stable Housing
Lack of access to safe housing has proven to be a greater predictive risk factor among justice-involved women. 

Formerly incarcerated women, particularly those with histories of substance abuse, have greater difficulties finding safe, affordable housing. Specifically, they often receive less financial and housing support from family members compared with returning men.  

​​Housing challenges are compounded for justice-involved mothers, who must struggle to maintain their families while also finding safe, affordable housing options. ​