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Statistics on Women Offenders
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 02/04/2013

Female inmate 2 Saturday, February 9th, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) is presenting a Women's Re-Entry Forum "Lifetime Makeover" This annual event will include speakers and creative activities geared toward enlightening, empowering and motivating the women at the Fairview Residential Re-Entry Center and others on community supervision.

All material is available though the web site of the Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/ unless otherwise cited. Note that correctional populations (prison, jails and community supervision) and rates have decreased slightly during the last two-three years. Results can be skewed by changes in large states.
  1. State and Federal Prisoners:

    Males (932 per 100,000) were imprisoned at 14 times the rate of females (65 per 100,000) in 2011. Imprisonment rates for males (down 1.7%) and females (down 1.8%) showed similar rates of decline from 2010 to 2011.

    Females comprised 6.7% of the 2011 state and federal prisoner population. In eight states, at least 10% of the sentenced state prison population was female.

    Black females were imprisoned at between 2 and 3 times the rate of white females, while Hispanic females were imprisoned at between 1 and 3 times the rate of white females.

    At yearend 2010, male and female state prison inmates differed in the types of offenses for which they were sentenced. At yearend 2010, 25% of female inmates in state prisons were incarcerated for drug crimes, compared to 17% of male inmates. Property crimes comprised 29% of the overall sentenced female population in state prison and 18% of the overall male population. An estimated 37% (34,100) of females in state prison were held for violent crimes, compared to 54% (689,000) of males.

    There were 111,387 women offenders incarcerated in state and federal facilities in 2010 compared to 1,487,393 male inmates.

    Prisoners in 2011, published in December, 2012, 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. Note that the 2011 version of the report (published in November, 2012) did not offer demographic information.

  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.

  13. “Women’s pathways to jail: The roles & intersections of serious mental illness & trauma,” see https://www.bja.gov/Publications/Women_Pathways_to_Jail.pdf

    Selected Findings:

    This multi-site study addressed critical gaps in the literature by assessing the prevalence of serious mental illness (SMI), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders (SUD) in women in jail and pathways to offending for women with and without SMI.

    The rate of incarceration of women has increased substantially in recent decades, with a 31% increase between 2000 and 2011.

    Female offenders appear to have different risk factors for offending than do male offenders. In particular, female offenders report greater incidence of mental health problems and serious mental illness than do male offenders and higher rates of substance dependence as well as greater incidence of past physical and sexual abuse.

    Other researchers also have noted elevated rates of experiences of interpersonal trauma, substance dependence, and associated symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder in female.

    Our national sample of women in jails demonstrated high rates of mental health problems, with a majority of our participants meeting diagnostic criteria for SMI, lifetime posttraumatic stress disorder, and/or substance use disorder.

    Similar to Steadman and colleagues’ (2009) finding that 31% of female offenders residing in northeastern jails met criteria for a current SMI, 32% of participants in this multi-site study met criteria for a SMI in the past year. Further, the number of women meeting criteria for multiple lifetime and current disorders was high. The prevalence of SMI, PTSD, and SUD as well as rates for co-occurring disorders suggest female offenders enter (or re-enter) jail with substantial and often multiple mental health concerns, and subsequently, have complex treatment needs.

    Although over half of the participants indicated prior access to treatment, a significant portion of female offenders do not appear to have treatment that is addressing their problems and helping them to improve their basic level of functioning.

    The women with SMI reported significantly greater frequency of all forms of victimization and more extensive criminal histories. As was demonstrated in the SEM analyses, women’s experiences of child and adult trauma were significant predictors of their overall mental health.

    The results of the SEM analyses also suggest that while child and adult victimization relate directly to women’s mental health, victimization did not predict offending history directly; only mental health was directly associated with women’s offending histories.

    Women with SMI were at higher risk for numerous forms of offending including running away, substance use, and drug dealing/charges. In addition to the increased risk associated with SMI, various forms of traumatic victimization predicted the onset of offending.


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  3. Fred Davis on 07/09/2013:

    De legislating many drugs would help disempower the corrupt in the system who use the drug war to profit from the issues of others and doing such would cut down on policies that have been failing historically with data on prohibition thinking also.

  4. Writing Prof on 02/15/2013:

    Is this ture? If a woman is in the home, in another room etc., and her husband/boyfriend opens the front door and makes a drug transaction, she is equally culpable under the law. And because he has something to trade the police (names), he might go free. She has nothing to trade so frequently ends up in prison. If tru, that might account for the higher number of female inmates who are there for drugs.

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