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Statistics on Women Offenders
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 02/06/2012

Womancuffed-small February, 2012

All material is available though the web site of the Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/. Note that correctional populations (prison, jails and community supervision) and rates have decreased slightly during the last two years. Results can also be skewed by changes in large states.
  1. State and Federal Prisoners: There were 113,000 women offenders incarcerated in state and federal facilities in 2010 compared to 1,500,000 male inmates.

    The growth in the female incarcerated population was 2.2 percent since 2,000. The growth in the male incarcerated population was 1.6 percent since 2,000.

    Male inmates had an incarceration rate 14 times higher than females.

    Black females had an imprisonment rate nearly three times that of white females.

    Thirty-six percent of females were incarcerated for violent crimes. Property offenses (30 percent) and drug offenses (26 percent) were the next most prevalent offenses.

    Prisoners in 2010, Published in December, 2011, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice
  2. Prison, Jail and Community Supervision: In 2009, the majority of the total correctional population (prison, jails, community supervision) was male (82 percent) and 18 percent was female.

    Men comprised a smaller portion of the total population in 2009 than in 1990 while the percentage of women increased slightly within the total correctional population.

    Women under correctional supervision in 2009 (85 percent) were more likely than men (66 percent) to be supervised in the community on probation or parole.

    Correctional Populations in the United States, 2009, Published in December, 2010, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice

    The rate of incarceration in prisons and jails per 100,000 was 1,352 for males and 126 for females. The rates by race include Black females (260), Hispanic females (133) and White females (91).

    Correctional Populations in the United States, 2010, Published in December of 2011, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice
  3. Previous Years: The number of female prisoners rose at a faster rate (4.8 percent) then the number of male prisoners (2.7 percent). The percent increase in female prisoners was almost twice that of male prisoners. Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear, 2006. Published June of 2007. Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice. Please note that jails (not prisons) hold and release the majority of incarcerated men and women.
  4. HIV: In 2004, 2.6 percent of all female state prison inmates were HIV positive, compared to 1.8 of males. HIV in Prisons, 2004. Published November, 2006. Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.
  5. Mental Health: Female inmates had higher rates of mental health problems than male inmates (73 percent of females versus of 55 percent of males in state prisons). Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates, Published September, 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice. Note: Based on self report data, not necessarily a formal diagnosis.
  6. Physical or Sexual Abuse: Nearly 8 in 10 female mentally ill inmates reported physical or sexual abuse. Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers, Published July, 1999. Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.
  7. Sexual Abuse: 57.2 percent of females report abuse before admission to state prison versus 16.1 percent of males. 39.0 percent of female state prison inmates report that they were sexually abused before admission to state prison versus 5.8 percent of males. Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers, Published in April, 1999. Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.
  8. Physical or Sexual Violence: Nearly 6 in 10 women in state prisons had experienced physical or sexual abuse in the past. 69 percent reported that the assault occurred before age 18. Women Offenders, Published December 1999, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.
  9. Women Offenders and Children: Approximately 7 in 10 women under correctional sanction have minor children, more than 1,300.000 children. Women Offenders, Published December 1999, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.
  10. Drug Use: On every measure of drug use, women offenders in state prison reported higher usage (40 percent) compared to males (32 percent). Women Offenders, Published December 1999, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice. Note: This is self reported data. Actual number of offenders with substance abuse histories is approximately 80 percent (national data).
  11. Family Violence: The majority (73 percent) of family violence victims were female. Family Violence Statistics, Published June, 2005. Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.
  12. “Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry,” see http://www.urban.org/center/jpc/returning-home/ documents the process of being released from prison for male and female inmates. The sample size allowed identification of statistical differences in the experiences of women versus men.
Selected Findings:

In Maryland, half the women reported daily heroin use in the six months leading up to their arrest compared to slightly more than a third of men. Half the women reported daily cocaine use compared to 22 percent of men.

In Texas, women were more likely than men to be clinically depressed, to have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder and to be diagnosed with lung disease and sexually transmitted diseases.

In all jurisdictions, sixty-one percent of men were working after prison compared to 37 percent of women.

Submitted by Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. - Reprinted with permission

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  3. RArias on 11/11/2013:

    How can we help state correctional departments recognize the need for rehabilitative programming that addresses the issues in this article? Substance abuse is the only state-wide programming being utilized among the 11 issues noted. There is rarely any outcome-based program policy, even with substance abuse. Why not use the time while the women are locked up to start alleviating some of the problems that keep them locked in the revolving doors of the system?


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