Over the past 20 years, the rates of incarceration of women have skyrocketed. In 1986, there were 19,812 women in US jails and prisons and by 2005, that number had jumped to 106,000, which represents a five-fold increase in less than 20 years (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005). Between 1977 and 2004, the number of women incarcerated for a year or longer rose by 757%, which is more than double the increase for men. In 2006, the US had 183,000 women in jail or prison, which is at least three times higher than any other country (US Census Bureau, 2006). In addition, by 2005 over one million women were being monitored by the justice system in either probation or parole status (Glaze & Palla, 2005). The growing number of women entering the criminal justice system creates a compelling need to identify and better understand the factors that contribute to women’s involvement in criminal activities. Greater insight into the psychological factors associated with women’s criminal behavior will aid in the development of strategies to reduce the risk that women will become involved in criminal activity in the first place. A better understanding of these factors will contribute to more effective judicial decision-making for female defendants and also assist efforts to design effective treatment strategies for women both during incarceration and during post release supervision.
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