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Women Offenders

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EST                BJS
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 5, 1999                    202/307-0784  

     WASHINGTON, D.C.   There are nearly 2.1 million
violent female offenders (or about 14 percent of all
violent offenders) annually in the U.S., the Justice
Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced
today.  Three out of four female violent offenders commit
simple assaults, and three out of four female violent
offenders attack other women.  
     Two-thirds of these violent female offenders had a
prior relationship with their victims, and about 40
percent of violent female offenders were thought to have
been under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both.  For
nearly half of the female victimizers, the violent
offense took place at or near the victim's home or at
school.  Male offenders commit an average of 13.1 million
violent crimes annually, about a third of which are
committed at home or school.
     The violent offender data are based on the average
number of such offenders for the years 1993 through 1997
as measured by BJS'  National Crime Victimization Survey
and reflect the victims' descriptions of the gender and
number of assailants in the criminal incidents.  
     The per capita violent offending rate among both
males and females has been declining since peak rates in
1994.  Between 1994 and 1997 the rate has fallen by 29
percent among males and 25 percent among females.  The
rate at which females commit murder has been falling
since 1980 and in 1998 stood at its lowest level since
1976--40 percent lower.
     In 1998 there were an estimated 950,000 women under
the care, custody or control of federal, state or local
corrections.  This represents just under 1 percent of the
U.S. female population.  They had an estimated 1.3
million minor children.  Eighty-five percent of these
women were being supervised in the community by probation
or parole agencies. 
     About 60 percent of female state prison inmates
reported having experienced physical or sexual abuse
prior to their incarceration about a third had been
abused by an intimate, and a quarter by a family member.
     An estimated 80 percent of the women in state
prisons were either recidivists or had a current
conviction for violence.
     Between 1976 and 1997 male and female parents and
stepparents were known to have murdered almost 11,000
children.  Mothers and stepmothers committed about half
of these offenses.  Sons and stepsons accounted for 52
percent of those killed by their mothers and 57 percent
of those killed by their fathers or stepfathers.  Mothers
were responsible for a higher share of children killed
during infancy, whereas fathers were more likely to have
been responsible for the murders of children eight years
old and older.  
     At the end of 1997 there were 44 female inmates
under death sentences, or 1.3 percent of the total death
row population.  Between January 1, 1977, and December
31, 1997, 431 men and one woman (in North Carolina) were
executed in the U.S.  In 1998 two women were executed,
one in Florida and one in Texas.  
     The special report, "Women Offenders" (NCJ-175688),
was written by BJS statisticians Lawrence A. Greenfeld
and Tracy L. Snell.  Single copies may be obtained from
the BJS fax-on-demand system by dialing 301/519-5550,
listening to the complete menu and  selecting document
number 178.  Or call the BJS clearinghouse number:
1-800-732-3277.  Fax orders for mail delivery to 410/792-4358. 
The BJS Internet site is:
     Additional criminal justice materials can be
obtained from the Office of Justice Programs homepage at:
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After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354
Date Published: December 5, 1999