Women Prisoners Increase in 20 Years

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Prisoners across the world increased by more than 25 per cent and one in every three prisoners are held without trial, according to a latest data published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The UNODC released the data ahead on Nelson Mandela International Day (July 18). The data presents an analysis on the long term trends of incarceration between 2000 and 2019.

Increase in prisoners

The data says that around 152 prisoners were there for every 1,00,000 population at the end of 2019. While Northern America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe have experienced a long-term decrease in imprisonment rates of up to 27 per cent, other regions and countries, such as Latin America and Australia and New Zealand, have seen growth over the last two decades of up to 68 per cent.


The data showed that most of the prisoners are men, which comes to around 93 per cent of the total prisoners. However, the UNODC pointed out increase in women prisoners at a fast pace. It said that there was an increase of 33 per cent. Meanwhile  men prisoners increased by 25 per cent.

The UNODC analysis also mentioned that all the prisons across the world were operating at more than 100 per cent of their intended capacity.


The UNODC in the analysis said that nearly 550,000 prisoners in 122 countries were infected with COVID 19. It also reported about 4,000 fatalities in prisons in 47 countries.

As part of pandemic, some of the prisons brought in several limitations. This included recreation, visitation rights and work opportunities. However, these restrictions also had limitations, as most of the prisons were overcrowded. As such, some countries opted to release, at least temporarily, large numbers of people in custody, especially remand prisoners and those convicted of non-violent offences.

Key findings
  • At least 7,00,000 prisoners since March 2020 around the world are eligible for release through emergency release mechanisms.
  • An estimated 11.7 million persons were detained in prisons across the world  in 2019. This is a population comparable in size to entire nations such as Bolivia, Burundi, Belgium, or Tunisia.
  • Since 2000, the population held in prison has increased by more than 25 per cent
  • Most persons detained in prison globally are men (93 per cent). In last 20 years, women in prisons increased at a faster pace (33 per cent increase)


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