While male prisoners in Pakistan also suffer, the female prisoners’ plight is truly worrying. Like male offenders, the majority of female offenders are poor. However, women enter the criminal justice system with a host of unique medical, psychological, and financial problems and needs that distinguish them from male offenders. Addiction, poverty, unemployment, physical and mental illness, physical and sexual abuse, and homelessness trap women in a cycle of hopelessness and crime. In particular, female offenders are often young mothers who face the additional trauma of threatened separation from their children.
Too many women serve short-prison sentences, often for breaching community orders for crimes that do not themselves carry a prison sentence. Juvenile women offenders face additional difficulties. In the absence of a female probation officer, several juvenile offenders are in an extremely disadvantaged position. On the one hand, there is no separate section for female juvenile offenders. But on the other hand, they cannot be released on probation under the supervision of a male officer.
When women commit crimes, their children often become the innocent victims of the criminal justice system. These children, many of whom are placed in foster homes away from both parents and siblings, suffer emotional trauma associated with separation and social isolation. Without intervention, these children are at greater risk for involvement in crime than their peers.
As the number of women under the control of the criminal justice system increases, increased attention must be directed to providing this growing population with the supervision and services needed.