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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Julie L. Jones

Florida Department of Corrections
Julie L. Jones, Secretary

National Profile of the Female Offender

According to the National Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1,366,721 men and women were reportedly incarcerated in state and federal prisons at the end of 1999. Of this total, 90,668 were females, accounting for 6.6 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 2000-2001, Florida's average female population was 35.1 years of age and 35-39 years of age was the largest group
  • 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
  • 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

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