Female Incarceration Rates By State

Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

It is a well known fact that the United States incarcerates more residents than any other country in the world. For every 100,000 residents in the country, the US incarcerates 716 people. 

The majority of these offenders are men rather than women. This is true all over the world, not just in America. Due to this, female incarceration rates are commonly looked over and therefore lost among the male data. 

Today we’ll be looking at the incarceration rates for women by state, as well as how this compares to the rest of the world. 

Female incarceration rates by state

The United States houses only 5% of the world’s female population, but it accounts for almost 30% of the world’s incarceration rates for women. 

Below are the women’s incarceration rates from the US, calculated per 100,000 women. 

  1. West Virginia: 273
  2. Oklahoma: 226
  3. Kentucky: 220
  4. Alabama: 211
  5. Arizona: 211
  6. Texas: 206
  7. Louisiana: 198
  8. New Mexico: 191
  9. Idaho:189
  10. Georgia: 186
  11. South Dakota: 183
  12. Alaska: 183
  13. Wyoming: 180
  14. Mississippi: 172
  15. Florida: 169
  16. Tennessee: 167
  17. Arkansas: 166
  18. Hawaii: 161
  19. Nevada: 153
  20. Colorado:147
  21. Virginia: 146
  22. Connecticut: 143
  23. Montana: 140
  24. Indiana: 138 
  25. Utah: 124
  26. Missouri: 124
  27. Ohio: 122
  28. South Carolina: 122
  29. California: 119
  30. Wisconsin: 112
  31. Oregon: 112
  32. Pennsylvania: 110
  33. Kansas: 103
  34. Washington: 97
  35. Iowa: 97
  36. North Carolina: 95
  37. Nebraska: 94
  38. Minnesota: 93
  39. Delaware: 91
  40. North Dakota: 89
  41. Illinois:88
  42. Maryland: 80
  43. New Jersey: 75
  44. New Hampshire: 71 
  45. New York: 57
  46. Maine: 53
  47. Massachusetts: 51
  48. Vermont: 50
  49. Michigan: 46
  50. Rhode Island: 39

The top 25 jurisdictions in the world with the highest incarceration rates for women are all American states. Thailand breaks up the list with a rate of 130, and the next 17 top jurisdictions are, again, US states. 

So, with the exception of Thailand, the top 44 jurisdictions across the world with the highest rates are all states in the US. 

30% of incarcerated women are living in the United States, which is double the number as in China, and four times as many as in Russia. 

Even the American states that have the lowest incarceration rates of the country are massive compared to other countries in the world. Rhode Island has the lowest rate in the US at 39. This is still higher than countries such as France, Iraq, Germany, United Kingdom, Poland, and Saudi Arabia. 

Only 14 countries in the world have a higher incarceration rate for women than Rhode Island, which is the state that has the lowest rate of incarceration for women. 

To put this into perspective, Illinois has an incarceration rate of 88. This is the same as El Salvador, which is a country that is known for jailing women for having miscarriages, and de-legalizing abortion. 

Similarly, New Hampshire has the same rate as Russia, and New York has the same rate as Rwanda. 

The United States as a whole

The United States has an overall incarceration rate of 127 per 100,000 of the population. The only other country that has a similar rate to this is Thailand.  So, how does this all add up when comparing the numbers to our allies and other countries in the world? 

Below is a list of our closest allies – the founding countries of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) – and their incarceration rates for women. 

  1. United States: 127
  2. Portugal: 16
  3. United Kingdom: 13
  4. Canada: 11
  5. Luxembourg: 9
  6. Belgium: 9
  7. Norway: 8
  8. Netherlands: 8
  9. Italy: 7
  10. France: 6
  11. Denmark: 5

As you can see, the other NATO countries have a rate between 8 and 25 times lower than the United States for the incarceration of women. If Rhode Island were a country, it would still have a rate over double the rate of Portugal, which has the second highest rating of the NATO countries. 

Our rates are only going up

The United States isn’t just beating every other country in the world with their women incarceration rates, but we’re also beating ourselves year after year. In the past, the United States rates have been much lower than they are now, and they only seem to be increasing. 

There has been a sudden jump in incarceration rates since the 1980s, with the rate almost tripling between the 1980s and the 1990s. 

There is no clear cut way to determine why these rates have grown so substantially since the 20th century, but some do have their theories on why. A popular theory that many seem to agree with is that the higher rates are the outcome of a number of policy changes made by the federal, state, and local officials made in the last 30 years. 

Many agree that these policy changes are regrettable now looking back on them, but are unsure of how to correct them in order to reduce the incarceration rate of women. This poses the question of whether the rates in the US are ever  going to drop again, or if the steady incline is here to stay. 

Currently, at a rate of 127 per 100,000 women being incarcerated in the United States, this shows that around 206,000 women are being confined in US prisons. What we find interesting is that this number is said to be significantly lower than the incarceration rate for men. 

With that being said, comparing the incarceration rates for both men and women in the United States can become confusing due to a number of external factors that influence the numbers. 


As you can see, the United States has a much higher rate of incarceration than any other country in the world. West Virginia has the highest incarceration rate in the country at 273, followed by Oklahoma at 226 and Kentucky at 220.

The state with the lowest incarceration rate for women is Rhode Island at 39. This rating is still double that of Portugal and is only beaten by 15 other countries in the world. Every other country has a lower rate of the state with the lowest rating in the USA.

These results are sobering to say the least and leaves us to wonder if there will ever be any change to the inclining trend of growth, or whether the US will continue to have the highest rates of incarceration for women in the world.