What We Know About Women Engaged in the Criminal Justice System
Date:  03-15-2013

Male and female prisoners often have many things in common, but female inmates have issues that most men never face
On March 8 Reentry Central posted an article that reported 73 percent of female prisoners have been diagnosed with a mental health issue, compared to the national average of 12 percent for women in the general population. Female prisoners have a higher rate of sexual, physical or emotional abuse than male prisoners, and as the article stated, often their mental health issues have led them to prison.

But what else has research discovered about the female inmate population in America? According to the National Resource Center on Justice-Involved Women (NRCJIW) the average female inmate is

  • In her thirties

  • Convicted of drug related crimes

  • Undereducated and lacking skills

  • Living in poverty

  • Unemployed

    NRCJIW also found that incarcerated women are

  • Disproportionately women of color

  • Mothers to minor children

  • Victims of physical and/or sexual abuse

  • Experiencing substance abuse issues

  • Experiencing health problems

  • Experiencing mental health issues

    The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported that between 1991 and 2007 the number of mothers in federal and state prisoners had increased a staggering 122 percent. During the same period, the number of children with mothers in prison had more than doubled, rising to almost 150,000 children nationwide. The BOJ also reported that 36 percent of females serving a sentencing of more than one year were convicted of a violent crime. Property offenses accounted for 30 percent of sentences, while drug offenses accounted for 26 percent.

    The transcript from a NRCJIW webinar titled Women Engaged in the Criminal Justice System, which also includes information on gender-specific treatment for women in prison, can be found in the Library section of www.reentrycentral.org