Mississippi's Female Prisoner Population Booms

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Criminal justice observers say the reasons are mixed. Experts say poverty and poor education are leading more women to committ violent crimes. Also, judges have gotten tougher on female offenders.

A recently released U.S. Justice Department report said Mississippi in 2002 had 126 female prisoners per 100,000 female residents. Oklahoma was the only state with a higher rate, 131 per 100,000.

There were 2,082 state and federal female prisoners in Mississippi in 2002, the report said. In 1995, there were just 791.

Women were housed in the Parchman prison until the mid-1980s, when the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility opened. Then, there were fewer than 200 women prisoners.