National Statistics on Women Offenders



Statistics on Women Offenders-2016

Women offenders are the fastest growing correctional population


By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Graduate-Johns Hopkins University.

Fastest Growing Correctional Population:

The female local jail population increased 48% between 1999 and 2013, from 68,100 to 100,940. Census of Jails: Population,Changes,1999–2013, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), US Department of Justice, published December, 2015.

About 25 percent of probationers were female in 2014, up from 22 percent in 2000. Probation and Parole in the United States, 2014, Bureau of Justice Statistics, published in November, 2015.

The number of females sentenced to more than one year in state or federal prison increased by almost two percent between 2013 and 2014. This was the largest number of female prison inmates (106,200) since 2008 (106,400). Prisoners in 2014, Bureau of Justice Statistics, published in September, 2015.

Since 2010, the female jail population has been the fastest growing correctional population, increasing by an average annual rate of 3.4 percent. Correctional Populations in the United States, 2013, Bureau of Justice Statistics, published December 19, 2014.

Felony Defendants:

According to Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, an estimated 17% of defendants were female in 2009. This was a slight increase compared to 1990 when females represented 14% of defendants. Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2009-published in December, 2013, Bureau of Justice Statistics, (latest report).

State and Federal Prisoners:

Female prisoners sentenced to more than a year in state or federal prison grew by almost 3% (2,800 inmates) between 2012 and 2013, while male prisoners increased 0.2% (2,500). White females comprised 49% of the prison population compared to 22% black females. However, the imprisonment rate for black females (113 per 100,000) was twice the rate of white females (51 per 100,000).

Female prisoners increased from 108,800 in 2012 to 111,300 in 2013 (up 2,500). Although females in the federal Bureau of Prisons increased by 1% in 2013, this was offset by a decrease in male prisoners. The female prison population increased in 36 states.

Drug offenders comprised 16% (210,200 inmates) of the total state prison population in 2012. Twenty-five percent of female prisoners were serving time for drug offenses, compared to 15% of male prisoners.

Prisoners in 2013-published in September, 2014-Bureau of Justice Statistics

History of Victimization:

The overwhelming majority of women in prison are survivors of domestic violence. Three-quarters have histories of severe physical abuse by an intimate partner during adulthood, and 82% suffered serious physical or sexual abuse as children. Correctional Association of New York at

Social Characteristics of Female Offenders:

HIV: 2.6 percent of all female state prison inmates were HIV positive, compared to 1.8 of males. HIV in Prisons, 2004. Published November, 2006. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Mental Health: Based on self-report data female inmates had higher rates of mental health problems than male inmates (73 percent of females versus of 55 percent of males in state prisons).
Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates, Published September, 2006. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Physical or Sexual Abuse: Nearly 8 in 10 female mentally ill inmates reported physical or sexual abuse. Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers, Published July, 1999.
Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Sexual Abuse: 57.2 percent of females report abuse before admission to state prison versus 16.1 percent of males. 39.0 percent of female state prison inmates report that they were sexually abused before admission to state prison versus 5.8percent of males. Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers, Published in April, 1999. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Physical or Sexual Violence: Nearly 6 in 10 women in state prisons had experienced physical or sexual abuse in the past. 69 percent reported that the assault occurred before age 18.
Women Offenders, Published December 1999, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Women Offenders and Children: Approximately 7 in 10 women under correctional sanction have minor children, more than 1,300.000 children. Women Offenders, Published December 1999, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Drug Use: On every measure of drug use, women offenders in state prison reported higher usage (40 percent) compared to males (32 percent). Women Offenders, Published December 1999, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Note: This is self-reported data. Actual number of offenders with substance abuse histories is approximately 80 percent (national data).


All cited material is available through the website of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS): of the US Department of Justice unless otherwise noted.

Note that results can be skewed by changes in large states (see methodology in individual reports).

Because of large sample sizes, older BJS data remain definitive.

Crime in America at

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