Oklahoma Leads U.S. in Incarceration of Women; Tough Laws Cited


Oklahoma is a world leader in the rate of incarceration of women, a trend that began in the early 1980s and has grown even more pronounced in recent years, reports the Oklahoman. From 1910 to 1980, women made up an average of 3.5 percent of the state's prison population. By 2010, that percentage was nearly 11 percent, with 2,760 women locked up. The paper cites the state’s tough laws.

Between 1987 and 2007, the overall number of prisoners in the U.S. nearly tripled, driven by “tough on crime” policies, politics, the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, the war on drugs and a federally financed prison construction boom. But the nation's female prison population grew by 832 percent between 1997 and 2007, while the male population grew only half as much. And the dichotomy is particularly acute in Oklahoma, which has led the nation in incarceration of women for 14 of the last 15 years. In 2004, the state imprisoned more than 10 times as many women per capita as Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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