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Women in Prison

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 1994
11 pages
T L Snell
Publication Series
Based on responses to questions in interviews with a nationally representative sample of State inmates in 1991, this report describes the women inmates in the sample, including offenses and criminal histories, personal characteristics, and backgrounds.
Approximately one in every 11 women in State correctional facilities was interviewed. The study found that female inmates largely resembled male inmates in terms of race, ethnic background, and age. They were most likely to be African-Americans (46 percent); age 25 to 34 (50 percent); unemployed at the time of arrest (53 percent); high school graduates, holders of a GED, or with some college (58 percent); and never married (45 percent). Women were substantially more likely than men, however, to be serving time for a drug offense and less likely to have been sentenced for a violent crime. Nearly two-thirds of the women in prison for a violent offense had victimized a relative, intimate, or someone else they knew. Nearly six in 10 female inmates grew up in a household with at least one parent absent, and approximately half reported that an immediate family member had been imprisoned. More than four in 10 reported prior physical or sexual abuse. Overall, female inmates had shorter maximum sentences than men. Half of the women had a maximum sentence of 60 months or less, and half of the men had a sentence of 120 months or less. An estimated 7 percent of the women and 9 percent of the men received sentences to life or death. More than three- quarters of all women in prison had children, and two-thirds of the women had children at the time of the survey. 17 tables

Date Created: December 16, 2009