A Comparison of the Factors that Lead to Women’s Incarceration in Overrepresented Crimes

This research looks at the factors that lead to crimes in which women are overrepresented in state prisons. The study uses the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities (United States Department of Justice, 2004).This survey is as nationally representative and covers prisoners incarcerated in both state and federal institutions. This study restricts its sample to state prisons only and looks at women’s incarceration. Additionally, analysis is restricted to those women who are “overrepresented” in various crimes. Overrepresentation is determined by whether women are incarcerated for certain offenses at rates greater than their overall representation in the prison population. Travis Hirschi’s (1969) social control theory and Meda Chesney-Lind’s (2004) feminist formulations are tested using multivariate models. The findings show that female inmates who are married are more likely to be incarcerated for drug and property crimes, while female inmates who have a job one month prior to incarceration are less likely to be incarcerated for drug and property crimes. Additionally, female inmates who experience sexual and physical abuse prior to being incarcerated were less likely to be incarcerated for drug and property crimes. This research supports both Hirschi and Chesney-Lind’s perspectives and helps delineate factors associate with women’s incarceration for what might be termed “women crimes.”