Number of Young African American Women in Prison Rises

March 16, 2011  |  

By Charlotte Young

Here’s a lesser-known red flag in the black community: the fastest growing incarcerated population in the country is African American girls and young women. What does not seem to be rising however, is the number of black girls who are actually committing crimes.

Not only is this baffling, it’s a hard-hitting problem as efforts to stop the mass incarceration of black girls are practically nonexistent. According to Barry Krisberg, Research and Policy Director at UC Berkeley’s Earl Warren Institute on Law, African American girls face brutality, emotional and sexual abuse once they are in the prison system.

Recently, the Thelton Henderson Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Law School moved to address the issue by hosting a free day-and-a-half conference, called “African American Girls and Young Women and Juvenile Justice System: A Call To Action.” The conference brought together academics and activist from across ages, race and class groups. Many of whom were formerly incarcerated.

Nikki Jones, a sociologist from UC Santa Barbara and Meda Chesney Lind, University of Hawaii, and attendee of the conference, has studied the statistics of imprisoned black girls for over 10 years and explained, “we have never seen these kind of numbers before,” reports EthnoBlog.

So far, the cause for this epidemic has been attributed to national zero tolerance policies and a justice system that treats girls of color differently than white girls.

Pricillia Ocen, one of UCLA’s Critical Race Studies professors, also points to the long-term effects of slavery and systems such as the chain-gang. But hasn’t that always been the case?

Let’s hope that the efforts of this conference and hopefully, other efforts to spark awareness, can help to get to the root of this problem and push the numbers down to a new all-time low.

Read More: In Post Racial America Prisons Feast on Black Girls

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  • Tony Tads

    which report do you believe?
    what i would like to know what type of crimes.
    most of young are for assaults ,shoplifting and gang related.
    the reason they don’t but mothers in jail.

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  • Misty Jean Moore

    There is no epidemic. The federal government releases Prison statistics every year and since 2000, the number of black female prisoners decreased from 37,400 to 26,600. A rate from 205 to 133. In comparison, the number of white and Hispanic women in prison has continue to increase.

    • The photo above even proves that! Most of the females in that picture are Caucasian!

  • [postage stamp required]

    yes, but what are those numbers? without numbers, this story may well be opinion

  • So much can be said about how, or why so many American Black Women are in Prison. I have to agree in part, with the poster that said it is the same way that America has delt with American Black Men. But keep in mind, that a race divided grows weaker by the day. Yes, the ideal in America is to carefully control American Black Families.

  • The Real Deal

    Thats it KAREN..Blame a Black Manfor why you are in prison! So Black Women are in jail for taking the rap for their boyfriends? You are truly ignorant! Black Women are in PRISON because they committed a crime, IGNORAMUS!! Your type make me sick!!

  • I hate the way the media constantly denigrates black women and go unchallenged when they exploit our naivetee for their own headlines. According to BJS Black Women are the only group based on gender that incaceration rates have decreased for over the past decade! Ms. Pfeffer the Thelton Henderson Center for Social Justice at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Law School should be called exactly what they are…PIMPS!….

  • ShaBranddon

    I think this is a concerted effort to stall our propensity to seek higher education. Black women are outpacing most people other than white men in getting degrees. So what do you do? The same thing you do to black men to stall their progress, imprison them. I see waaaay more white girls fighting and getting into trouble. Why aren't they in jaii?