Women now represent a significant proportion of all offenders under criminal justice supervision. Numbering more than 1 million, female offenders make up 17 percent of all offenders, or one in every six offenders, under some form of correctional sanction. The vast majorities (85 percent) are under community supervision and are typically on probation. The total number of women under correctional control increased 81 percent from 1990 to 2000, while the number of men increased 45 percent.
The increase in the number of women under correctional supervision has called attention to the status of women in the criminal justice system and to the particular circumstances they encounter. The first step in understanding women offenders in the criminal justice system is to understand gender-based characteristics. In addition to offense and demographic characteristics, the specific life factors that shape women’s patterns of offending should be looked at when dealing with women offenders.