Report: W. Va. holds the highest rate of female incarceration in the world

West Virginia has the highest rate of female incarceration in the world, imprisoning women at twice the rate of Thailand and more than six times the rate of United Arab Emirates


By Sarah Plummer
The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W. Va. — West Virginia has the highest rate of female incarceration in the world, imprisoning women at twice the rate of Thailand and more than six times the rate of United Arab Emirates, according to a new report released by the non-profit group Prison Policy Initiative.

A new report called “States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context,” shows how each American state’s incarceration rates compare with countries of the world.

The United States incarcerates 716 people — both men and women — per 100,000 residents, which is more than any other country.

West Virginia incarcerates 273 women per 100,000, followed by Oklahoma with 226 and Kentucky with 220.

This report reveals that each individual state incarcerates women at a higher rate than international norms.

West Virginia’s rate of 273 compares to China’s rate of 71 per 100,000.

According to the report, nearly 30 percent of the world’s incarcerated women are imprisoned in the United States even though only represents 5 percent of the world’s women live here.

In September, the West Virginia Division of Corrections was working with state officials to find cost-effective means to manage the growth of the prison population and reduce the number of female inmates being held in regional jails.

At that time, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said, “The female inmate population is our fastest growing segment in West Virginia.”

When the Prison Policy Initiative report compares individual states to other world countries, with the exception of Thailand and the United States as a whole, the top 44 jurisdictions throughout the world with the highest rate of female incarceration are American states.

Even Rhode Island, which has the lowest incarceration rate for women in the United States, would have the 15th highest incarceration rate in the world if it were a country.

“The statistics revealed by this report are simple and staggering” the report concludes. “They suggest that states cannot remain complacent about how many women they incarcerate. Women should be a mainstay of any state policy discussions on the economical and effective use of incarceration if we hope to incarcerate fewer women.”

The national U.S. female incarceration rate is 127 per 100,000 people, compared with 87 in El Salvador, 51 in United Arab Emirates, 13 in the United Kingdom and six in Portugal.

Because the Bureau of Justice Statistics has not published state-level estimations in U.S. jail population, this report uses U.S. Census data, which counts incarcerated individuals as if they are residents of prison locations rather than home states.

Because of this, some of West Virginia’s female prison population is likely non-native West Virginians in federal facilities.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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