skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 158904 Find in a Library
Title: Women in Prison: Punishing Victims as Penal Policy
Author(s): M Chesney-Lind
Date Published: 1994
Page Count: 14
Sponsoring Agency: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolula, HI 96822
Sale Source: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolula, HI 96822
United States of America
Type: Issue Overview
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper profiles women in prison and examines the policies that have increased the number of poor women in prison for petty crimes.
Abstract: Women's share of the Nation's prison population, measured in either absolute or relative terms, has never been higher. A building "binge" for women's prisons is a consequence. An examination of the pattern of women's crimes shows that the dramatic increase in women's imprisonment cannot be due to radical changes in the volume and character of women's crime. Instead, recent figures suggest that the "war on drugs" has become a war on women, as it has contributed to the explosion in women's prison populations; one out of three women in U.S. prisons in 1991 was doing time for drug offenses (up from 1 in 10 in 1979). Over one-third of the women imprisoned for drug offenses committed only possession offenses. Nearly 30 percent of the women in State prisons are there for property offenses. In California, one woman in four is incarcerated for either simple drug possession or petty theft with a prior conviction. Most female offenders are poor, undereducated, unskilled victims of past physical or sexual abuse and are single mothers of at least two children. They enter the criminal justice system with a host of unique medical, psychological, and financial problems. This profile suggests that women may be better served in the community due to the decreased seriousness of their crimes and the treatable antecedents to their criminality. There is a clear need for the Federal Government to convene a high-level task force on women in prison to provide national leadership on the specific needs of women in prison. This task force must provide the leadership necessary to make appropriate changes in law enforcement practices, judicial decisionmaking, and legislative mandatory sentencing guidelines that have led to the increase in the number of women imprisoned for minor, nonviolent offenses. 7 notes and 18 references
Main Term(s): Corrections policies
Index Term(s): Drug Policy; Female crime patterns; Female inmates; Female offenders; Sentencing reform; Women's correctional institutions
Note: Based on a paper presented at the National Institute of Corrections Seminar on "Critical Issues in Managing the Woman Offender," July 10-15, 1994.
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.