The number of women incarcerated in prisons and jails is growing dramatically. According to Harrison and Beck (2005), during 2004 alone, the number of women under the jurisdiction of State or Federal prison authorities increased by 4 percent while the number of men rose by only 1.8 percent. By the end of the year, 104,848 women and 1,391,781 men were in prison. Today, Harrison and Beck report, women account for approximately 7 percent of all prisoners. However, it should be noted that while women represent the fastest growing prison population, they are the least violent segment of prison and jail populations with over 85 percent of female offenders being behind bars for nonviolent offenses.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the kinship networks that are formed by female prisoners with other prisoners based not on blood or marital ties but socio-emotional bonds. The paper begins with a brief discussion of the causes of the increase in female incarceration. The paper then presents a discussion of the development and purposes that kinship networks serve in prisons. The final section of the paper presents conclusions about the kinship networks of female prisoners formulated on the basis of the reviewed material.
Factors Responsible for Increasing Female Prison Population
In their report on the increase in the female prison population, Harrison and Beck (2004) stated that the single biggest factor responsible for the increase was the tougher sentences now being handed out for violations of the drug laws. However, more arrests are also being made for drugs and this too contributes to the higher number of female inmates (Young & Reviere, 2005).
In a report prepared by the Action Committee for Women in Prison (2005), it is pointed out that women in prison for drugs or drug-related crimes often show the same pattern in terms of the factors contributing to their criminal behavior. This pattern begins with sexual abuse in y...