Incarceration of
Women
Chapter 12
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Acknowledging Gender:
Key Differences
 Sex & gender differences
 Health issues
 Violence against women & children
 Interrelationship between substance
abuse, mental health & trauma
 Socioeconomic status: employment
& education
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Women Tend to be
the “Forgotten Offenders”
 women commit fewer crimes than men
 female criminality tends to be less serious
than male criminality
 historically, women have tended more
often than men to be ignored by the justice
system
 women constitute a small proportion of the
U.S. prison population (7%) but the number
of women prisoners is increasing faster
than that of men prisoners.
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Women’s Prisons
 women’s
prisons are located farther from
friends & family, inhibiting visits,
especially for the poor
 women’s prisons lack diverse educational,
vocational, and other programs available
in men’s prisons
 women’s prisons lack specialization in
treatment
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Female Prison Reform in 1800s

separation of women from men

provision of differential care for women

management of women’s prisons by female staff

Elizabeth Fry – 19th century English Quaker who
was a champion of women’s prison reform
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Characteristics of Women in
the Criminal Justice System

More than one million women are currently
under criminal justice supervision in the U.S.

Women comprise 17% of the total number of
offenders under CJ supervision

The number of women in state and federal
prisons increased over nine-fold, from
12,300 in 1980 to 114,979 in 2009.
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Women in the C.J. System

The number of women in prison has increased at nearly
the double the rate of men since 1985, 404% vs. 209%.

Women have not become more violent as a group.
Women are less likely than men to incarcerated for a
violent offense (35% vs. 53%)

Women are more likely to have been convicted of crimes
involving property (30%) or drugs (29%) .

Drug offenses represent the largest source of population
growth for women, as opposed to violent offenses for
men.
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Who are the Women?
• Disproportionately women of color
• In their early to mid-thirties
• Most likely to have been convicted of a
property or drug offense
• Fragmented family histories with other
family members in the CJ system
• Survivors of physical and/or sexual abuse
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
•
Significant substance abuse problems
•
Multiple physical & mental health
problems
•
Unmarried mothers of minor children
•
High school degree/GED
•
Limited vocational training
•
Sporadic work histories
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Women in California Prisons

The female prison population in California has grown
more rapidly than the male prison population.

Between 1983 and 2009, the number of women
incarcerated in California increased five-fold, from about
2,000 to 11,000. There are currently 9,500 women in CA
prisons.

Women make up about 7% of the prison population.

There are 12,000 women on parole.

Women make up about 12% of the parole population.
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Offense Profiles of
CA Female Inmates

In 2007, over two-thirds of female inmates in California
prisons were serving sentences for property (33%),
drug (28%) or other offenses (7%).

In 2007, 30% of female inmates were serving sentences
for crimes against persons as compared to 52% of male
inmates.
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Race & Ethnicity
 African
American women comprise only 13%
of all women in the U.S., yet they make-up
nearly half of the women in State and Federal
prisons.
 In
2005, Black women were more than three
times as likely as white women to be
incarcerated in prison or jail.
 Similarly,
in California, African American
women and Latinas are overrepresented in
our prison system.
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
The Context of Women’s Lives
 Pathways Perspective
 Relational – Cultural Theory
 Trauma Theory
 Addiction Theory
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Substance Abuse

Approximately 80% in state prisons have
substance abuse problems

About half had been using alcohol, drugs, or both
at the time of their offense

Nearly 1 in 3 women in state prisons report
committing the offense to support a drug habit

Women offenders in state prisons report higher
drug usage than their male counterparts
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
The Drug-Crime Connection for Women
 Onset
in women faster & deeper
 Onset
of drugs first, crime usually follows
closely
 Dual
diagnosis relationship
 Role
of self-medication & trauma
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Violence Against Women
and Children
•
Witnessing domestic violence as a child
may cause increased vulnerability to victimization in
adulthood
•
Women in the CJ system have extensive histories of
physical & sexual abuse and are 3 times more likely than
men to have a history of abuse
•
One-third of women in state prison & one-quarter of those
in jails report being raped at some time in their lives
•
Women’s substance abuse is highly correlated with
physical & sexual abuse
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Mental Health

Women in the criminal justice system have a higher
incidence of mental disorders than women in general

Female inmates in state prisons had higher rates of mental
health problems than male inmates (73% of females vs.
55% of males)

Women offenders have histories of abuse associated with
psychological trauma

Approximately 75% with serious mental illness also have
co-occurring substance abuse disorders

Women with mental illness & co-occurring disorders
experience difficulties in prison & jail settings
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
“Pseudo-families”

a distinguishing hallmark of the
“subculture” in many women’s prisons
(as compared with men’s)
women
often cope with the stresses of
incarceration by bonding together in
extended “families” of convenience.
different women play the roles of various
members of the family, including father,
mother, siblings, grandchildren, even
cousins
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Key Issues in the Incarceration of
Women
 educational & vocational training
 female programs tend to reflect
stereotypical “female” occupations
 medical services
 women have more serious health
problems– In 2004, one of every 42
(2.4%) women in prison was diagnosed
as HIV positive compared to one of
every 59 (1.7%) men
 mothers & their children
majority of women are mothers
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Children
•
Approximately 70% of
women under
correctional supervision
have at least 1 child
under 18
•
Two-thirds of
incarcerated women
have children under 18
•
An estimated 1.3 million
minor children have a
mother under
correctional supervision
•
More than a quarter of a
million children have
mothers in jail or prison
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Why Punish The Children?
 Incarceration
takes a significant toll on
children who often witness their mother’s
arrest and are at risk of being separated from
their siblings, either by being placed with
relatives or in foster care.
 It
is estimated that children of offenders are
five times more likely than their peers to end
up in prison themselves.
 One
in ten will have been incarcerated before
reaching adulthood.
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Major Differences Between Male and
Female Prisoners

Women prisoners receive fewer visits than their
male counterparts. Many states have only one
women’s prison which is located far away from
children and families

Women are less violent

Women form close relationships and pseudo
families while men join gangs

Women were usually the primary caretaker of
children prior to incarceration and plan to reunite
with their children upon their release from prison
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
National Institute of Corrections GenderResponsive Strategies (Bloom, Owen, &
Covington (2003) Guiding Principles
• Acknowledge that gender makes a difference.
• Create an environment based on safety, respect,
and dignity.
• Develop policies, practices, and programs that
are relational and promote healthy connections
to children, family, significant others, and the
community.
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Guiding Principles Continued
• Address substance abuse, trauma, and
mental health issues through
comprehensive, integrated, and culturally
relevant services.
• Provide women with opportunities to
improve their socio-economic conditions.
• Establish a system of comprehensive and
collaborative community services.
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Barriers Facing Women Returning to
their Communities
 Welfare Benefits
 Housing
 Education and Employment
 Reunification with Children
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Legal Barriers
 Personal
Responsibility & Work Opportunity Act
of 1996
 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(TANF)
 Higher Education Act of 1998
 Public Housing - Section 8
 Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
Recommendations for Improving
Reentry Services for Women
Alternatives to incarceration should be the sanction of
first choice.
 For women who are incarcerated, planning for reentry
should begin at the start of the prison sentence.
 Women should be released from prison with the tools
and support they need to succeed in the community.
 Communities should be provided with the necessary
resources to assist women and their families.
 Public policies should promote family and community
well-being.

Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
The California Approach

Instituting, for the majority of female offenders who
will be released to the community, a reentry plan at
reception.

Promoting a continuity-of-care model which provides
support services from incarceration through
transition to the community.

Designing wraparound services for each individual
woman including substance abuse, mental health,
trauma, family reunification, housing, financial
assistance, educational, employment, childcare,
transportation, and advocacy.
Clear & Cole, American Corrections, 6th
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