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Women in Jail

NCJ Number
D Wood
Date Published
25 pages
Literature on women in jails was reviewed to determine the characteristics of these women and their service needs.
Since women represent only about 6 percent of the national jail population, they suffer not only the general inadequacies of jail confinement but also the privations resulting from their small numbers. Women are generally sentenced to jail for less serious offenses than those for which men are jailed. The typical woman in jail is poor, young, black, a single mother of two children, and a high school dropout. She has few job skills or experience, has a previous arrest record, abuses drugs or alcohol, and has extremely low self-esteem. Ten times more women are in jails than in prisons. Most crimes with which women are charged are minor property crimes. Violent crimes committed by women have not increased significantly, contrary to popular belief. A General Accounting Office report states that over 30 percent of the inmates in most women's jails are convicted prostitutes. Only 1 percent of women inmates receive work release sentences, even though the majority have been working at home caring for their children. Costs of jailing women tend to be higher than the costs for jailing men, largely because of the smaller number of women. Women tend to be placed in isolated sections of the jail without access to even the limited programs offered to men. The two major problems experienced by women in jail are separation from their children and health problems. Programming to meet these needs and the needs for education and vocational skills should be established. Community-based alternatives should also be emphasized, since jails are society's worst solution for women's crimes. Footnotes and 11 additional references are provided.