THE LOST POPULATION Women in prison experience more challenges in the correctional systems today than ever. Many of the problems seen today with imprisoned women are issues that have rolled over for centuries since the Era of Reform. Women have also been subjected to many stereotypical views since the 1800’s, especially one view that perceives them as the weaker sex. Since birth women are treated delicately by society and are guided into stereotypical female roles. In U. S. correctional facilities women are still considered lesser to their male counterparts thus requiring less attention.
Women have come a long way in society from having the right to vote, to fghting in combat; the view that women are less capable than men cannot be more false today. Also the underestimation of what a woman can do under certain circumstances is a common stereotype mistake. There is a smaller less violent population of imprisoned females than males but women have been committing the same crimes as males. Women should be granted the same opportunities for rehabilitation as the male inmates in prison if not more.
To have a better understanding of the difficulties women in prison face today I will review the history f imprisoned women, challenges they face incarcerated, the different types of offenders, and rehabilitative programs offered. Although, there are many similar issues that women in prison face worldwide I will concentrate on the issues of imprisoned women in the United States. In order to have an idea of how difficult the road to reform for female prisoners has been let’s start off with the history of women in prison facilities.
History in Indiana The first correctional facility built for female offenders was the Indiana Women’s Prison in 1873. The Indiana facility started the development of other prisons around he country like the Western House of Refuge at Albion, Michigan; but change for women did not happen over night (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2013). The restructuring for the treatment of women offenders started about seventy years prior overseas in England, and like many solutions that have been adopted from England the need for separate female correction facilities were one of them.
Prior to the separation of women offenders, women were placed in the same prisons as men and were subjected to harsher treatment because of how easy it was to prey on their sexuality. Clear et. l. , (2013) state that the common crimes for which females were imprisoned was for prostitution, crimes against the public, alcoholism, and vagrancy; they were also in overcrowded rooms, neglected daily, and housed in unclean living areas. Thinking back to the end of the 1800’s it was a time when the U. S. atified the 1 5th Amendment giving male African Americans the right to vote but not women, so the mindset back then was male superiority. Men clearly did not believe in equal rights for women or understand their needs. Reformer males also thought that women did ot have the ability to reason, that all of their actions were guided by their emotions, and could not be reformed back into society (Clear et al. , 2013). Simple thinking led to simple solutions and over time the separation of genders proved to be insufficient towards rehabilitation. The requirement for reformatory programs was crucial and challenges women faced.
Understanding the women population in prison and the reasons that motivated their crimes is part of the process that develops the programs for rehabilitation. In April of 1927, Dr. Mary B. Harris ran the first federal prison for women in West Virginia, The Federal Industrial Institution for Women (“The first federal prison for women opens,” 1927). Dr. Harris believed the reason why most women committed crimes was because of their lack of self-respect and dependency on men; in order to correct this she revised programs that instilled confidence through skills taught (Clear et al. 2013). For over a century now steps have been taken to improve women’s rehabilitation; but because the imprisoned population is not large enough priority for women has taken a back seat. Society has been constantly changing the civil rights and views upon women and as a result the needs of women have changed along with issues they encounter. Prison Challenges Women in prison have dealt with similar issues over time, many would assume by now effective solutions and programs would have been mastered, but there not.
Imprisoned women have always been subjected to sexual abuse while incarcerated; less today than back in the late 1800s but still enough to cause the need for change. In a survey conducted by the U. S. Department of Justice in 2008-2009 there were eported 2,112 staff sexual misconducts among the female prisoner population nationwide and 4,728 inmate on inmate sexual conduct (Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2008-09, 2010). Regulations were created to prevent prison rape like the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) but still a decade later and its implementation and effectiveness has been slow.
However in recent news new PREA standards have been created and should have been implemented as of last month. The new standard requires each prison to have a PREA coordinator, not conduct cross-gender strip searches unless under exigent ircumstances or done by medical personal, provide all prisoner with the information and services to outside victim advocates, and document everything along with PREA staff training (Ledbetter & Halley, 2012). Hopefully these changes can be studied in the following year and lower the occurrences of rape in prisons.
Other issues women offenders have been forced to deal with is the separation from their children. Many states have maybe one separate correctional facility for women and most times it is located in the middle of nowhere making it difficult for women with families to isit and provide a support system (Clear et al. , 2013). It is easy to sympathize for a pregnant female in prison because of the concern for the innocent baby. Which is why some states have built separate facilities located inside their prison for the mothers to care and bond with their child.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons developed a program called Mothers and Infants Nurturing Together, provided that the inmate meets the requirements for the program she is allowed three months to bond with her child before returning to prison (“Federal Bureau of Prisons: Female Offender Programs,” n. d. ). The fact that a woman’s body is physically complex enough to create a child is proof that the needs of women are greater. Two other major problems that women encounter in prison are the lack of vocational and educational programs offered that will be discussed further below and the various health issues that require constant attention.
Many of the health issues such as mental health, sexually types of offenders. Types of offenders For women the offense committed that led them to imprisonment often relates to the type of offender. The average female prisoner is said to be of ethnic minority, ave at least a high school degree, and be under the age of forty-five (Clear et al. , 2013). The top five crimes committed by females are property crimes, drug felonies, nonviolent felonies, aggravated assault, and aggravated robbery (Esherick, 2007). The war on drugs is said to be one of the main reasons that there is an increased amount of women in prison today.
Nearly forty percent of all women behind bars have committed some type of drug offense (Esherick, 2007). A substance abuser costs the government more than a person who committed fraud because of the medical treatment they require. There are also a large number of women that have experienced some form of sexual abuse either as a child or as an adult. Most of these women come from broken homes where the abuse has lead them to have mental, emotional, and serious health problems. The majority of these problems require the same type of care women on the outside of prison are receiving in order to be rehabilitated.
Another type of offender that is very common is the mentally ill, it is often described as someone that is unable to make decisions, is not capable of reason, and is extremely unpredictable in their actions, they create higher security risks. To a certain level this is true but mental illness in women includes more characteristics and can also cause additional health issues. The six most common mental health issues that women experience are anxiety, major depression, chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia or psychosis (Esherick, 2007).
Classification of these types of offenders and further identifying their individual needs can improve the type of treatment they need while incarcerated. In recent news Colorado prisons have been taking extra steps in diagnosing and ddressing the needs of mentally ill women by structuring therapeutic communities in special pods that offer drug counseling, psychological treatment, and group therapy (Mitchell, 2013). Many women who end up in prison also have STD’s and underlying health issues that have been neglected overtime mainly because of no health care and their history of risky behavior.
Incarcerated women have various backgrounds that include injecting drugs and engaging in unprotected sex these acts have exposed many of them to various STD’s. However the major virus that needs immediate attention is HIV/AIDS; other STD’s asily spread through sexual acts between women inmates and increases the chances for women to contract HIV/AIDS. The average medical care cost for a prisoner with AIDS ranges from $50,000 to $145,000 a year, in special cases up to $300,000 (Clear et al. , 2013). The benefit of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS eventually outweighs the cost in the long run.
Incarcerated women are thirty-six times more likely to be exposed to HIV/AIDS than men (Esherick, 2007). Women are naturally built to nurture, to take care of someone, and so while in prison a large percentage of omen participate in some type of relationship that leads to sexual activity. Women also require more routine health checks than men such as annually pap smears, and mammograms. The older female population in prison requires twice the amount of with more challenges in adjusting to prison because of their long-term sentences.
The violent female offender, I’m going to refer to Jodi Arias whom has been in the news this year for the murder of her ex-boyfriend. Arias is a good example of a violent offender who attempted to exploit the sympathy of the public for two reasons, he is a female and she supposedly was a victim of domestic abuse over her lifetime. In Arias’s case she was found guilty of first-degree murder and her supposed claim of domestic abuse failed, she did brutally murdered her ex and almost decapitating his head (Shoichet, 2013). For many women though that have experienced domestic, physical, and mental abuse they were the victims.
Their situations lead them for a moment in their life to lash out and commit a crime against their offender, a crime that led them to prison labeling them as a violent offender. According to the Bureau f Justice Statistics in 2000 there were six times more male violent offenders than women, four out of every ten women were under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the time of the crime, and six out often women in state prisons had a history of sexual abuse (Women Offenders, 2000). The custody of the violent offenders is often maintained to prevent suicide and further acts of crime while incarcerated.
The violent offender naturally carries out longer sentences and depending on the level of the violent act committed they should not be the focus of female offenders that need mmediate rehabilitation. Rehabilitation One of the goals in corrections is rehabilitation, at some point the prisoners’ sentence will be served and she will be a member of society again. In order to prevent and reduce recidivism rates programs have been developed since the first separate prisons were opened for women to assist in rehabilitation. Dr.
Harris believed in educating and teaching useful trades to women, during that time household, maid, and other stereotypical roles were taught but since then women’s rights have changed. The war on drugs was enacted, and the understanding of ommon mental illnesses in women is now better understood, but the stereotypical female programs still remain the same. Life for women in prison is significantly different from men, even the structure of women state prisons look different they resemble cottages and are gated and wired, but because of the smaller population there is less pressure to design effective treatment programs (Clear et al. 2013). ). For women with children it is especially important and challenging that they receive some type of useful vocational skills so they can get a decent Job and gain custody of their children. The state of New York introduced a new bill this year that will ensure that female inmates are offered equivalent rehabilitation programs as the male inmates, one main reason being that females take on non-traditional Jobs upon release and require the same opportunity for success (S. 3316, 2013).
The type of rehabilitative programs offered varies from state to state and federal prisons. Both state and federal prisons do offer females and males the opportunity to earn their GED while in prison if they don’t already have one; they must complete two hundred and forty hours of literacy programs. At the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio women offenders are taught life skills that include anger control, domestic violence, dealing with stress, Job resumes, financial investments and several more (“Inmate Programs,” 2013).
With higher mental health issues being recognized it is women that have a history of abuse. The Women in Trauma Treatment program, again at the Ohio institute offers women with mentally ill issues, substance abuse problems, and who were victims of trauma to go through counseling during incarceration in the attempts that it will assist them when they leave the facility “Inmate Programs,” 2013). Since the abuse of drugs usually leads to crime it is important to have substance abuse programs that mirror rehab facilities outside of prison.
A support system utilizing not only the females in prison that share the same experiences but a family support system that could communicate routinely can increase the chances for success once released since that is usually who they turn to for help. They say that the dependency on drugs is not an addiction it’s a disease and while it is easy to be sober in prison women inmates must learn how to stay away from it on the outside. One of the main reason women end up back in prison is because of substance abuse, it unfortunately becomes a revolving door for them.
Conclusion Nationwide budget cuts have affected everyone not Just law-abiding citizens but prison facilities both state and federal. I read several times throughout my research that women inmates want equal rights as the male inmates; they want the same opportunities for success. However, women offenders require more therapy and programs than men because the situations they encounter in life are drastically different. Most males don’t worry about how they are going to obtain custody of their hildren upon release they usually worry about getting a Job, a similar issue women offenders encounter.
I believe the majority of reasons why females are in prison are because of the influence a male had over them; someone they personally knew abused them and depending on the age could have possibly damaged their potential for success and they were slowly guided to crime. In California they have seen the number of incarcerated women lowering so either two things finally changed, effective programs produced lower recidivism rates or lesser sentences on non- violent crimes. Women do have lower recidivism rates than their male counterparts ot Just because they are a smaller group but the majority of them are mothers.
I personally think that the benefit of spending the extra money on improving female programs in correctional institutions will out weigh the costs of having to house a female inmate for a year including routine medical care. An act to amend the correction law, in relation to assuring rehabilitation programs for female inmates are equivalent to programs afforded male inmates- New York State senate S3316. (2013, January 13). Retrieved from http://open. nysenate. gov/legislation/bill/ S3316-2013 Clear, T. R. , cole, G. F. & Retstg, M. D. (2013). At-nencan corrections, Tenth Edition.
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio. (2013, March 19). Programs. Retrieved May 12, 2013, from http://www. ccnoregionalJail. org/lnmate%20Programs. htm Esherick, J. (2007). Women In Prison. Bromall, PA: Mason Crest Ledbetter, D. , & Halley, D. (2012). New PREA Standards and Differences. Corrections Today, 74(4), 103-105. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier, EBSCO Host website: http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. librarieshawaii. org:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/ pdfviewer? sid=ff381 fl e-31 cd-4b8e-b256- 25295404d15%40sesstonrngr111 Mitchell, K. (2013, March 6).
Two of three women in Colorado prisons diagnosed with psychological disorders. The Denver Post. Retrieved from http://’. nm. n. nl. denverpost. com/news/ci_22726190/two-th ree-women-colorado- prisondiagnosed-psychological-disorders Shoichet, C. E. (2013, May 11). Jodi Arias faces possible death penalty after Jury’s verdict. CNN. Retrieved May 1 1, 2013, from http://www. cnn. com/2013/05/1 5/Justice/arizona-Jodi- arias- trial/index. html The first federal prison for women opens. (1927 April, 30). History. com. Retrieved from http://www. history. om/this-day-in-history/the-first-federal-prison-for-women- opens U.
S. Department of Justice, and Office of Justice Programs. (2000, October 3). Women Offenders. Retrieved from http://b]s. gov/content/pub/pdf/wo. pdf U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, and Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2010, August). Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2008-09. Retrieved from http://bJs. gov/content/pub/pdf/svpJri0809. pdf U. S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons. (n. d. ). Female Offender Programs. Retrieved May 1 2, 2013, from http://www. bop. gov/inmate_programs/female. ]sp