According to the National Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1,104,074 men and women were reportedly incarcerated in state and federal prisons at the end of 1995. Of this total, 69,028 were females, accounting for 6.3 percent of the nation's total offender population. Although the female offender population comprises only a small portion of the total population, every year since 1981, the growth rate of female adult offenders has exceeded that of male adult offenders. Between 1980-1994, the number of women entering the nation's state and federal prisons increased by 386 percent, compared to a 214 percent increase in the number of men entering prison.
In 1990, the American Correctional Association published the results from a survey it conducted on female offenders. Based on the responses of 2,094 female offenders in 400 state and local correctional facilities, a very detailed profile of the female offender was produced.
Most are young (25-29)
As of FY 98-99, Florida's average female population was 34 years of age
The majority are economically disadvantage minorities with children
Many are not married or are single parents
About half ran away from home as youths
About a quarter had attempted suicide
A sizable number had serious drug problems
More than half were victims of physical abuse
Over a third had been sexually abused
About a third had never completed high school
Over a quarter had been unemployed in the three years before going to prison
Most of the women were first imprisoned for larceny, theft, or drug offenses, and, at the time of the survey, they were serving time for drug offenses, murder, larceny, theft, or robbery
In Florida, on June 30, 1999, the top four crimes for which women were incarcerated are:
Sale/Manufacture of drugs (13.8 percent), Possession of Drugs (8.5 percent), Aggravated Battery (7.1 percent) and Burglary of a Dwelling (7.1 percent)
Many of the women convicted of manslaughter or murder had killed a boyfriend or husband who abused them
Half of the women committed for homicide were first time offenders
In addition to the facts provided by the survey, the literature on female offenders indicates the following:
Crimes committed by women have not gotten more serious; instead, the system is now "tougher" on all offenses, including those traditionally committed by females
Many female offenders come from backgrounds of poverty, neglect and abuse; they are likely to have histories of emotional problems linked with substance abuse, and in general, have poor health.