U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Prisoners in Paradise: Women's Prison Problems in Hawaii

NCJ Number
M Chesney-Lind
Date Published
7 pages
Between 1981 and 1985, women's arrests in Hawaii increased by 25 percent, although their arrests for Part 1 offenses actually decreased by 4.5 percent.
A review of 1975-1985 data for Oahu reveals a 13.6-percent increase, with the majority of the increase in arrests for drug offenses, fraud (chiefly welfare and check fraud), and larceny theft (over 80 percent shoplifting). Yet, during this same period, a 75-percent increase occurred in women incarcerated. Clearly changes in the rates and characters of women's crimes cannot explain the dramatic changes in their incarceration rates. In Hawaii, three factors appear to have contributed to the current situation. Judges, perhaps affected by notions of liberated female crooks and aware of the public clamor to get tough on crime, have become more willing to sentence women to prison. Simultaneously, legislative willingness to implement mandatory sentencing provisions increased pressure for incarceration of women. Finally, pressure to improve prison conditions had the indirect effect of making more prison space available to the now tougher judiciary and contributed to the use of prison sentences where previously probation would have been considered the appropriate response. Reformers are urged to pay attention to the appropriateness of women's incarceration, lest they become unwilling partners in a scheme that escalates women's incarceration. 9 references.