Women in New York City Jails, 1995-2019

Since 2017, New York City has been implementing a citywide plan to reduce the city’s jail population to 3,300 and replace the Rikers Island jail complex with four borough-based jails (a project currently targeted for completion by 2027). This report sheds light on the progress made in reducing the population of women held in the jails up through 2019.* The sub-population of women in Department of Correction custody does not always receive attention because of their relatively small representation in the jails.

The New York City jail population is comprised primarily of people who fall into one of the following admissions groups: (1) people who have been charged, but not convicted, of a crime(s) and are detained while their case is waiting resolution (“pretrial”), (2) people who have been sentenced, typically for a misdemeanor offense with sentences of a year or less (“city sentenced”), or (3) people who have allegedly violated the conditions of parole (“technical parole violation”). This report examines trends over time (1995-2019) in admissions, charge types, bail amounts, length of stay, and discharge status for women admitted to jails for these three groups of admissions (and overall). It also examines how these outcomes vary by charge, race/ethnicity, and age.

Key Findings:

  • The number of women admitted to jail in New York City declined by 79% from 13,265 in 1995 to 2,898 in 2019.
  • Women accounted for 8% of admissions in 2019 – a decline from 11% of all admissions in 1995.
  • In 2019, 85% of women were admitted pretrial compared to 6% for a city sentence and 5% for technical parole violations.
  • In 2019, the top three pretrial charges for women were assault in the 2nd degree (12% of all pretrial admissions for women), petit larceny (8%), and assault in the 3rd degree (7%).
  • In 2019, the top three charges for women admitted for city sentences were petit larceny (38%); possession of controlled substance in the 7th degree (10%); and disorderly conduct (9%).
  • In 2019, Black women made up 53% of women admitted to jail, Latinx women made up 28% and White women made up 19%.
  • In 2019, 25–34-year-old women accounted for the largest proportion of admissions for women (38%) compared to all other age groups.

*This report is a supplemental analysis to the DCJ report, New York City Jail Population in 2019, which focuses on overall jail admissions and pretrial detention in 2019. For additional information on long-term trends in the jail population from 1995 to 2019, please see two related DCJ reports: (1) Data Report: Trends in Admissions to New York City Jails, 1995–2019, and (2) Data Report: Trends in Pretrial the Jail Population in New York City Jails, 2000-2019.