The Increasing Incarceration Rate of Women: Causes and Consequences
Although women have been shown to commit far fewer crimes than men, the number of incarcerated women has increased at an alarming rate in recent years. In 2015, there were approximately 205,000 women incarcerated in the United States, which is more than double the number of women in prison in 1990 (Mauer & King, 2016). Despite the fact that women make up a relatively small percentage of the prison population, they are the fastest growing Correctional population (Mauer & King, 2016).
There are a number of reasons why the incarceration rate for women has increased at such a rapid pace. First, changes in law and policy have led to more arrests and tougher sentencing for women offenders. For example, the War on Drugs has disproportionately impacted women, as they are more likely to be arrested for drug-related offenses and given longer prison sentences than men (Mauer & King, 2016). In addition, many states have enacted mandatory minimum sentencing laws that require judges to hand down harsh sentences for certain offenses, regardless of the circumstances of the case or the offender. These laws have also had a disproportionate impact on women, as they are more likely to be convicted of offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences (Mauer & King, 2016).
Another reason for the increase in incarcerated women is that prisons have become increasingly punitive and less rehabilitative over time. In the past, prisons were designed with the goal of reform and rehabilitation in mind. However, this is no longer the case; today, prisons are designed with the primary purpose of punishment and deterrence. As a result, prisons have become harsher and more brutal places, particularly for women offenders who often do not have the same physical strength as their male counterparts and are thus more vulnerable to abuse (Mauer & King, 2016).
Finally, it is important to note that the increase in incarcerated women is also due to societal factors such as poverty and inequality. Women are more likely than men to live in poverty, and they are also more likely to be victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. These factors can lead women to turn to crime in order to survive or escape their difficult circumstances. Additionally, racial minorities are disproportionately represented among incarcerated women; African American women are three times as likely to be incarcerated as white women, and Hispanic women are 69% more likely to be incarcerated than white women (Mauer & King, 2016).
2. Women Offenders: Definitions and Issues:
There is no single definition of a woman offender; rather, the term encompasses a wide range of offenses committed by females. However, there are some common characteristics that many female offenders share. For example, many female offenders are mothers; in fact, approximately 60% of female inmates in state prisons report being responsible for minor children (Mauer & King 2008). This is significant because it highlights the unique challenges that female offenders face when it comes to child care and parenting. Female offenders often have difficulty accessing quality child care while they are incarcerated, and they also face barriers to parenting once they are released from prison. Additionally, many female offenders have histories of trauma and abuse; according to one study, 78% of female inmates reported experiencing physical abuse during childhood, and 47% reported experiencing sexual abuse (Davis & Espelage 2003). This history of abuse can contribute to mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can make it difficult for women to lead stable and productive lives.
3. Associated Offenses:
There is no single offense that is associated with female offenders; rather, women can be convicted of a wide range of offenses. However, some offenses are more common among women than men. For example, drug offenses are disproportionately committed by women; according to one estimate, women make up approximately 60% of all drug offenders (Mauer & King 2008). Additionally, many women are also incarcerated for property crimes such as theft and fraud. These crimes are often committed out of necessity, as many female offenders are struggling to support themselves and their children on limited incomes.
4. Treatment and Punishment of Women Offenders:
The treatment and punishment of female offenders has long been a controversial issue. There is a general belief that women should be treated more leniently than men, as they are typically seen as less culpable for their crimes. For example, research has shown that judges are more likely to give female offenders probation instead of prison time, and they are also more likely to recommend treatment instead of punishment (Steffensmeier & Demuth 2000). Additionally, there is a common belief that pregnant women should not be incarcerated at all, as it is deemed to be too harmful for the developing fetus. This belief has led to the enactment of laws in some states that prohibit the incarceration of pregnant women (Mauer & King 2016).
However, there is also a growing belief that female offenders should be treated more harshly than in the past. This belief is based on the idea that women are now committing more serious and violent offenses than in the past, and thus they should be subject to tougher punishments. For example, many states have enacted laws that require mandatory minimum sentences for certain offenses, regardless of the circumstances of the case or the offender. These laws have had a disproportionate impact on women, as they are more likely to be convicted of offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences (Mauer & King 2016). In addition, there has been a recent push for the adoption of “truth in sentencing” laws, which would require offenders to serve 85% of their prison sentence before being eligible for parole (Mauer & King 2016). These laws would also have a disproportionate impact on women, as they are more likely than men to have shorter prison sentences and thus would be less likely to benefit from early release.
The incarceration rate for women has increased at an alarming rate in recent years, due to a number of factors such as changes in law and policy, the increasing punitiveness of the criminal justice system, and societal factors such as poverty and inequality. This increase has led to a number of unique challenges for female offenders, who often face difficult circumstances such as motherhood and histories of trauma and abuse. The treatment and punishment of female offenders has long been a controversial issue, but there is a growing belief that women should be subject to tougher punishments than in the past. This belief is based on the idea that women are now committing more serious and violent offenses than in the past, and thus they should be subject to tougher punishments. However, it is important to remember that women are still human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their criminal history.