women behind bars: serving life without parole and death sentences

Over 6,600 women are serving a sentence of life without parole in America, according to a new report from The Sentencing Project

We go to The Sentencing Project for this week’s study, “In the Extreme Women Serving Life without Parole and Death-Sentences in the United States” by Ashley Nellis

  • One of every 15 women in prison — over 6,600 women — are serving a sentence of life without parole (LWOP).

  • Death sentences are permitted by 27 states and the federal government, and currently 52 women sit on death row.

  • One of every 39 Black women in prison is serving LWOP compared with one of every 59 imprisoned white women.

  • Latinx women comprise 6% of the total number of LWOP sentences being served by women.

  • Among the 52 women serving death sentences, 58% are white, 25% are Black, and 11% are Latinx

  • 42% of women on death row are women of color

  • 32 women serving LWOP sentences were under 18 at the time of their crime

  • From the Sentencing Project sample, 20% were under 25 at the time of the crime

    • 16 states we find that Black women were on average 4.5 years younger at sentencing compared to white women.

  • The average current age of women serving LWOP is 52.

  • 27% of people serving LWOP are at least 55 years old.

  • 44% are currently at least 55 years old.

  • Approximately half of victims killed by women between 2000 and 2015 were family members or intimate partners.

  • Death sentences imposed on women reached their highest level to date in 1990 and have declined since.

  • A seminal study of 42 survivors of intimate partner abuse convicted of murder in California found that all but two had received life sentences

    • 6 were sentenced to life without parole

    • The rest received life sentences with minimums that ranged from 7 to 15 years

Read the whole study here

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