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Corrections - Women In Prison

drug percent incarcerated times

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the fastest growing group in prison and jail population was women. According to the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 91,612 women in state and federal prisons at the end of 2000, or 6.6 percent of the nation's total prison population. Ten times that many or about 900,000 were on probation or parole. Back in 1970 there were just 5,600 incarcerated women, 12,300 in 1980, and in 1990 approximately 40,000. From 1990 until the end of 2000 the number of imprisoned women grew by 125 percent.

Eighty-five percent of women prisoners committed nonviolent crimes, mostly drug offenses and theft. The astounding increase in the number of incarcerated women in the 1990s was largely due to drug arrests. In the early 1980s federal and state governments initiated a "War on Drugs," in reaction to a huge increase in drug related offenses throughout the United States.

Most incarcerated women are poor, undereducated, and women of color. Black American women are three times more likely to be in jail or prison than Hispanic women, and six times more likely than white women. Most female inmates are young (between twenty-four and twenty-nine years of age); raised in a single parent home; experienced violence or sexual abuse at home; started using drugs in their early teens; and were unemployed or in a low paying job at the Former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding performing community service work after serving three days in jail on a disorderly conduct charge. (AP/Wide World Photos) time of their arrest. Eighty percent are mothers leaving approximately 250,000 children under eighteen years of age to the care of others.

Most women in prison do not receive proper healthcare or drug treatment and are often sexually abused or assaulted by male corrections officers. Medical care in a system designed primarily for men does not provide the kinds of testing, treatment, and medication needed by women and often leaves them with recurring health problems. Most women sentenced for drug crimes do not receive drug treatment therapy while incarcerated, and once released they are unable to receive federal assistance such as food stamps and student loans because of their drug convictions. Roughly 80 percent of female drug users released after serving time will return to prison on new convictions.

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