By The Sentencing Project
Incarcerated women, especially black women, are often punished more harshly than incarcerated men for minor violations of prison rules, according to a new report from the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
The report, “Women in Prison: Seeking Justice behind Bars,” cited reporting from NPR and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University which analyzed data from 15 states and conducted interviews at five prisons across the United States, finding that women were two to three times more likely to face discipline for minor violations of prison rules in comparison to men.
The report noted that black women make up 40% of women in solitary confinement, but just 23% of the female prison population.
In general, women in prison face harsher punishments—such as placement in segregation, loss of privileges, and loss of credits reducing their sentences—for offenses such as disorderly behavior, while men often are similarly punished for violence.
The report suggests that women in prison are more likely to suffer from trauma, mental health issues, and substance abuse in comparison to men, which signals the need for more evidence-based, trauma-informed discipline policies that help women avoid harsh consequences.