Female offenders

When I discuss offenders on this blog, I often use the male pronoun. This is a deliberate decision, a reflection of the fact that men make up a much larger proportion of offenders than women.

How big is this difference? About 83% of felony defendants in the United States are male. The difference is even larger for violent crimes, where men make up about 86% of violent offenders. Although the gap has been narrowing in recent years, the large majority of felony defendants are men.

There are also distinctions between male and female offenders. Compared to men, women felons are more likely to be HIV-positive, to have significant mental health problems, or to have been victims of physical and sexual abuse. They are also more likely to have abused drugs, and 70% of female prisoners have minor children. Compared to men, women are more likely to have been drawn into criminal activity by relatives, partners, and friends.

Because there are fewer female inmates, there is often a smaller range of prison programs available to them. On the good side, however, violence between female inmates is less common than among males, and gang activity is a less prevalent problem in women’s prisons. Here’s an article that outlines some of the specific challenges of female offenders.

Female offenders can make interesting literary characters. If you’re tempted, I’d urge you to do some research on the reality of female offending. You might even gain some plot ideas.


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