Female Incarceration

Female Incarceration

Data highlight

Oklahoma no longer has the highest female incarceration in the world, a title we held for years. We now rank 47 (out of 50) in the United States. Massachusetts comes in first with only 6 women incarcerated for every 100,000. Idaho took our place at #50, incarcerating more women than any other state at a rate of 127 per 100,000. 


Number of women experiencing incarceration per every 100,000.




Someone who is incarcerated has been charged with or convicted of breaking a law and placed in a jail, prison, or other correctional institution. 

Why we care:

The United States leads the world in the number of people it incarcerates. Although more men are incarcerated than women, the growth rate for women since 1980 has been twice as high.

Oklahoma consistently held the title of US state with the highest female incarceration rate before the pandemic. We now rank #3. 

Women are particularly vulnerable to criminal justice involvement because they are more likely to experience trauma (see Sexual ViolenceIntimate Partner Violence, and ACEs Reported), substance use, and mental illness (see Depression and Anxiety). Incarceration exposes women to further trauma rather than the trauma-informed care and social and financial support they need to heal.

When Oklahoma women are incarcerated, they are unable to work and do not have access to comprehensive healthcare. This may be part of the reason that when compared to the general population, their mental and physical health is worse while behind bars and even after being released.


Finally, incarcerated women are separated from their families, and over half of women in state prisons have a child under the age of 18. Children of incarcerated parents are more likely to live in poverty and experience homelessness. They are also five times more likely to enter the criminal justice system, continuing a cycle of intergenerational incarceration (see ACEs Reported).

What we can do:

This issue brief was written by Metriarch staff as part of our Data Lookbook.

Suggested citation
 Metriarch. “Social Dynamics,” Data Lookbook (2024). URL: metriarchok.org/female-incarceration.

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