Crime is a significant issue in America as well as other countries. In order to try to lessen the rate of crime in America, the causes of crime are often studied. Records are keep of those who commit crimes in order to determine the underlying factors which led to these offenses in an effort to decrease their occurrence. An entire field of study, criminology is dedicated to the study of crime in society. The field of criminology encompasses not only the causes of crime and theories behind why people commit crimes, it also studies the detailed of rates of crime across differing groups of people. Criminal statistics are keep according to race, socioeconomic status, and gender. Although much of the discussion when talking about crimes rates in America deal with men, as men tend to commit crimes at a higher rate than women, women actually commit a significant portion of the crime in America. And the crime rates of women are often documented according to race. Throughout this paper, I will examine how race factors into women’s crime rates.
Females and Crime
Although the percentage of females arrested in this country is significantly lower than the percentage of men, it actually is a significant percentage none-the-less. “The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), through the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, collects crime and arrest data from more than 18,000 city, county, and state law enforcement agencies. According to Crime in the United States 2012 (released in November 2013), during 2012: Nationwide, law enforcement made an estimated 12,196,959 arrests (does not include citations for traffic violations). 26.2% of arrests were female” (Spotlight). Therefore, 73.8% of all arrests in 2012 were males, which shows that females make up a far less percentage of those arrested in this country; this suggests that females are less likely to be the perpetrators of crimes. This tends to hold true for juvenile offenses as well. In 2010, there were approximately 1,368,200 juvenile delinquency cases in the United States; of these juvenile delinquency cases approximately 28% of them were of female offenders. Furthermore, according the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Annual Probation Survey and Annual Parole Survey in 2004, “About 1 of every 8 adults on parole (94,400) were women and almost 1 of every 4 adults on probation (957,600) were women. The female parole and probation populations have increased steadily since 1995. The female parole population increased from 10% in 1995 to 12 percent in 2000 and 2004. The female probation population increased from 21% in 1995 to 22% in 2000 and 23% in 2004” (Spotlight). Even still, it is important to note the women make up a very small percentage of the people incarcerated in prison in the United States. Only an estimated 7% of the United States’ prison population is comprised of women.
It is not just the rate of crime that differs between men and women, the types of crimes typically committed differ between the genders as well. According the a Bureau of Justice Statistics Special report on Women Offenders women make up approximately 14% of violent offenders. Furthermore, of the female offenders who commit crimes which are categorized as violent, the overwhelming majority, 75%, are simple assault crimes; additionally, the overwhelming majority of the victims of these assaults are women (See Greenfeld, 2000). According to The Criminal Justice System and Women: Offenders, prisoners, Victims, and Workers, “Although the sex difference for some crimes like homicide and robbery has remained fairly consistent over the past 40 years, females have made considerable gains (1) in the minor property crimes of larceny, fraud, and forgery; and (2) in recent years for assaultive crimes and drinking related offenses like DUI and liquor law violations” (Price, 2004, p. 102).
Women Race and Crime
Although, there has been a significant difference in the incarceration rates of women in the past, the difference has been steadily decreasing in recent years. “The racial disparity between black incarcerated women and white incarcerated women dropped by nearly half between 2000 and 2009Rates of incarcerated black women declined about 31 percent during that period, from 205 women per 100,000 to 142 per 100,000. At the same time, incarceration rates for white women increased by about 147 percent, from 34 women per 100,000 to 50 per 100,000” (Kates, 2013). There are many factors which could have resulted in this marked rate shift according to race for incarcerated female. One of the factors which many point to is the change in drug laws in many areas. An increased focus on arresting those involved in the use and trade of methamphetamine along with the revising of strict drug sentencing laws which were put into effect as a response to the crack epidemic of the 1980s, may have has a significant effect on the rates of female incarceration by race.
It is also interesting to note that although the majority of women in prison are non-white, entirely two thirds of the women under probation supervision are white (See Greenfeld). This may suggest that white women who commit crimes have a tendency to commit less violent crimes for which the punishment is less severe. There can also be a slight connection to the fact that the criminal justice system tends to favor whites for less severe punishment.
In addition, some credit the lessening of the racial disparity gap between black and white females as being connected to the lessening of the socioeconomic gap between African Americans and whites in America. Furthermore, changes in comparative educational level which is connected to wealth and socioeconomic status may also had an impact on the lessening of the gap between races with regard to the incarceration of women; as the average educational level of black women increased the rate of incarceration in comparison to their white counterparts would decrease (See Mauer, 2013).
The intersection of race and gender of criminology and criminal statistics has been studied at relatively low amounts. However, the statistics which are present do offer some insight into how both race and gender can impact an individual’s likelihood of coming into contact with the criminal justice system. The proportion of females committing crimes overall is smaller and less likely to be very serious offenses. Furthermore, changes in focus of drug sentencing laws may be having a significant effect on the shifting of the female inmate population by race as the crimes committed by white and black women tend to vary by race just as crimes tend to vary by gender.
Greenfeld, L. A., and Snell, T. L. (2000). Women Offenders. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special
Report. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved from:
In the Spotlight: Women and Girls in the Justice System. National Criminal Justice Reference
Service. Retrieved from: https://www.ncjrs.gov/spotlight/wgcjs/summary.html
Kates, G. (2013). Race, Women, and Prison. Thecrimereport.com Retrieved from:
Mauer, M. (2013). The Changing Retrieved from:
Price, B. R. and Sokoloff, N. (2004). The Criminal Justice System and Women: Offenders,
Prisoners, Victims, and Workers. (3rd edition). Retrieved from: