Examination of Women Prisons
W 7:00-9:30 p.m.
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In the past women have always been viewed as breaking laws against the criminal justice system and laws against female domesticated roles. (Anderson, 2006) In the United States women were seen as only the servants of men. Women were to show obedience and submissive personalities toward men. In the early 1800s women were to be punished if they dared speak their mine or not doing what their husbands say. Bush-Baskette, 1998)
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Women often resorted to prostitution with more propertied inmates or officials to survive. However noble in principle, most of these attempts at correction failed.
There wasn’t too many women in the prison system at the turn of the century. There was only about a small percentage of women in the prison system by the 1960s, many reformist believed that these women did not fit the particular type of rehabilitation. There was definitely no programs to reform and the facilities they were housed in had little to no safety procedures.
The shape of women in prison has persisted regular: Female prisoners are mainly low earnings, excessively African American and Hispanic, undereducated, untrained, and jobless. They are typically young and heads of families with at least two children. At least two-thirds of imprisoned women have children under the age of eighteen. Substance mistreatment, compounded by poverty, joblessness, bodily and emotional illness, physical and sexual abuse, and homelessness also characterize the women’s prison population. These descriptions remain precise even as the statistics of women in prison carry on to gush uphill. (Bush-Baskette, 1998)
Women of color are over represented in women’s prison. In spite of this disproportionate racial and ethnic composition, racial conflict has not been a primary feature of the social order of female prisons. While racial and ethnic identity is predominant in male prison culture, these conflicts do not shape the way women do their prison time. Women in prison generally live and work in an integrated environment and form personal relationships that often cross racial lines. Racial and ethnic gangs have not yet appeared in women’s prisons to the extent they are found in male prisons. While a small number of women may enter the prison with some street gang or clique affiliation, the subculture of the women’s prison offers little support for these pre-prison
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identities. Women seeking the personal and community ties found in street gangs are likely to find substitutes within the prison families or other personal relationships. (Anderson, 2006)
Since the war on drugs there was a huge increase with women being imprisoned. Most women are in prison because of drug related problems. Women who committed crimes have admitted being under the influence of drugs during the commission of their crime. Many women have a history of sexual and physical abuse. When women come to prison they experience even more sexual and physical abuse from other inmates. Most women were involved with intimate partner abuse with their husband or boyfriend. They also experienced terrible upbringings with abuse from their own family. (Gartner, Kruttschnitt, 2004)
Women in today’s prison deal with problems from their life prior to prison and their new life inside prison. Women in prison have experience drugs, rape, assault, mental health issues, and family life. Women face many pains and deficiencies that is a direct result from being in prison. People have argued that most of these issues would better be help women in other treatment programs outside of prison. Without any help women are not ready to live their lives outside of prison with the problems they had before prison and the new problems that were created in prison. (Covington, 1999)
Most women who are in prison are mothers. Mothers in prison have a hard time keeping relationships with their kids. Their kids are usually far away from the prison there mothers are staying at. Kids are in some way the second victim because being away from their mother causes emotion stress. Some women were their kids’ sole caretaker and their children get put into the foster care system. Some women have reported never seeing their children during the duration of
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their prison sentence. Six percent of women go to prison while they are pregnant. Once women give birth they are allowed on a brief moment to see their new born child. Mother-infant bonding is severely undermined by this lack of contact after birth. In New York they have one prison that allows newborn babies to stay with their mothers in a special prison program. The mother child relationship is a special bond that is very important in the first year of a child’s life. Most states actual terminate a mothers parental rights once she has been in prison for a certain amount of time and it is very hard to get them back. This especially hurt women in prison with their psyche.
Along with basic health needs women also require much more attention that has happened before they even came to prison. (Anderson. 2006) With the growing population of women in prison these resources are getting farther and farther to attain. While being in prison are more at risk for contracting HIV, aids, hepatitis, and many other diseases. Pregnant women is another issue because women receive very little to no prenatal care that they need. While giving birth women are handcuffed to their bed post. Women who have mental health are highly ignored. Most experts believe that a good portion of women in prison are in need of mental health services. Women who have drug addiction, mental health, alcoholics, and post-traumatic stress disorder have little access to a mental health professional. Instead are just given medications to deal with their issues. Prior to going to prison women experience physical, sexual, and emotional trauma that increases the need for counseling and therapy. Most of these emotional and physical abuses are tangled with their drug addiction and committing crimes.
Beside the fact that there are inadequate drug and mental health programs, getting your education and learning a trait is also difficult with the lack of programs. Prisons for men offer
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much more programs with education, drug, health, than what is offered for women in prison. The training that is offered to women are used for traditional roles that women are expected to meet.
Sexual abuse is a serious problem from the early days of women’s imprisonment to modern day. Many groups have monitored sexual abuse throughout women’s prison. There are specific problems with sexual abuse in women’s prison. There is no chance to get away from the person who is abusing you. There is a lack of criminal investigation of any sexual abuse. Nobody feels like they have to answer to anybody for it. There is also no concern among people in society. (Anderson, 2006)
Majority of women in prison come from poor backgrounds. They are also mostly made up of minorities and are young. While many people have researched female prisons before that led to our current knowledge today, there is still much more that is unknown. When people look back in history they will see that prison was mostly designed for men, women were paid no attention at all and the needs that they required was not taken seriously. Even though the women prison population continues to grow in the United States, resources for women prisoners have not been able to meet the needs for so many women. With no response to the ever growing needs that women need, only shows how serious as a society we have for women in prison.
Houses of correction, workhouses, and transportation to colonies were precursors of modern confinement and served to bridge the gap between the death penalty and the contemporary prison. The house of correction and the workhouse were designed to address the moral failings of the underclass. In their various forms, these institutions were used to confine less serious offenders, including penniless women and prostitutes. Women could also be sent to bride-wells, poorhouses, or nunneries by fathers or husbands who wanted to punish the unruly, disobedient, or unchaste woman.
The penitentiary was the next step in the evolution of the prison. Dungeons, castles, and the like had been used for centuries to confine wrongdoers until physical punishment could be delivered. The penitentiary, however, was the first attempt to use confinement as the punishment itself. In England, one of the first models for the modern prison was intended to provide a place of penance for prostitutes. This radical experiment was based on principles of separation from the moral contagion of their former lives, religious contemplation, and rigid structure. Up until the late 1800s, women, men, and children were confined together in these attempts at correction, often with no provision for food, clothing, or bedding. Those without families or other means of support lived in brutal and unsanitary conditions. Women often resorted to prostitution with more propertied inmates or officials to survive. However noble in principle, most of these attempts at correction failed.
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Anderson, T.L (2006). Issues facing women prisoners in the early 21st century. Rethinking gender, crime and justice. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury.
Bush-Baskette, S. (1998) The War on Drugs as a war on Women. Crime control and women. Thousand Oaks, CA
Covington, S. (1999). Helping women recover: A program for treating substance abuse. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Gartner and Kruttshcnitt, (2004) A brief history of doing time the institute for women in the 60s and 90s. Law and Society Review.