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Drugs And Crime: Women Essay, Research Paper

Drugs and crime over the last ten years have increased for women, at about twice the rate of drug use in men. In 1999 a survey of inmates in state correctional facilities, the percentage of women in prison for a drug offense exceeded that of men. (2000, Bureau of Justice statistics) Drug usage is the grounds for many women going to prison. Drug use is on the rise among women. Seventy-five thousand women are serving prison sentences in the United States; most of them are in prison for drug law violations. (1999, Boyd) These violations include possession, manufacturing and/or the sale of illegal drugs.

Women are more likely than men to have used heroin or cocaine in the month before the offense for which they are serving time are. An estimated 72% of the women in prisons had used drugs prior to incarceration. Daily use of these major drugs in that month was also higher among women than men. (1991, Bureau of Justice statistics) This fact might be because more women admit to their drug use than men do. Women were more likely than men to report having been under the influence of major drugs at the time they committed the crime, (1999, Tower)

The ideas of women behind bars conjure up many images. We all have our own ideas on who these women are and what they look like. What are these women really like, what real life problems do they face? To fully understand the female prison population, statistics from the past decade is vital. In 1981 there were more than 1400 women held in federal facilities, by 1992 that number had increased to over 5100. Then in 1991 there were 47,691 women in state and federal institutions. (1991, Bureau of Justice statistics) Just ten years later the number has jumped an alarming growth of over seventy-five thousand. (2000, Bureau of Justice statistics)

The typical female in prison is under thirty, African American, uneducated, unemployed or employed at a low skilled wage. More than 50% of these women in prison have children. Of this half the majority are single mothers. (1998, Center for Prison Reform) These factors may be the reason the crime rate among women is growing. Survival is essential. A mother will submit herself to anything in order to provide for their children. Unfortunately, they do more harm by getting caught up on this express elevator into the criminal world.

One of the reasons for this constant increase in women being incarcerated is unemployment. Crimes committed by women are almost the same as those committed by men: stealing, defrauding, drugs, and murder. The majority of these types of crimes are against property. ?During the last several years the relative growth was in respect to the thefts of the state property, robbery and assaults.? (1998, Center for Prison Reform) These crimes are larceny, theft, fraud, and robbery. A struggling mother will steal from other people in order to feed her children or make a better life for her family. The refrigerator is empty, the electric bill is due and the gas has already been shut off, she will write bad checks, to keep her family feeling as though they are in a normal environment.

One might object to the thought of drug use being the largest reason for women going to prison. We still have to take into consideration the women that are in prison for murder or attempted murder. These are the women that are abused by other people in their lives. Most of the victims of these women are also their companions. So, should I say that the women are also the victims? They are victims of physical and mental abuse. These are the women that are killing in self-defense. Women who were surveyed, reported that prior to serving time for a violent offence, they were physically or sexually abused. An estimated 40% of the women had committed violent crime had against a relative, ex-spouse, or another intimate relation. Female inmates serving time for a violent offense were also more likely than violent male offenders to report or testify that they had a close relationship with their victim. Violent female offenders were more likely to have victimized a male.

Battered Women?s Syndrome is a legal term that was used as a defense for a woman that after years of abuse had retaliated against her husband. She killed him. When I began this research paper, I believed this would be the number one cause. Surprisingly only 30% of the women incarcerated are in prison for murder. (1991, Bureau of Justice statistics) Due to this case and many others after this one, a new precedent had been set. Now more and more women are finding freedom due to the ability to prove ?battered women?s syndrome.? (1999, Boyd)

There is definitely a new category of prisoners in our prison systems today. Women, whose crimes have not been caused by the economic necessity, in fact, they come from quite wealthy families. These women are committing drug crimes. Drug addiction is a major problem facing all women. Many women get involved with the sale of drugs as a means of improving their living conditions. They do not take a look at the long-term effect or the consequences that may take place from the result of drug use. Drugs and crime increased at about twice the rate of men in the last ten years. So by these statistics we can see the importance of educating these women. Educating them to protect themselves so they can earn a better living, live a better life. A higher income will prevent the crimes against property and the necessity to sale drugs for living. Society must teach these women to value their lives, and the significance of their bodies.


Dyer, Caneila A. (1998). Center for prison reform. Florida: University of South Florida

Richards, S. (1991). Bureau of justice statistics. Washington D.C.: Bureau of Justice

Murray, F. (2000). Bureau of justice statistics. Washington D.C.: Bureau of Justice

Boyd, S., Faith, K (1999). Women, illegal drugs and prison. Canada: International Journal of drug Policy 10(3): 195-207

Tower, C. (1998). Women in Prison. New York: Warner

The Rise of Women in the Prison Systems

By Tammy Underwood

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