Women in prison
Published 06 Jul 2017
Crime does not pay. Those who commit crimes must suffer or endure the consequences of their actions. For every wrong act, there should be a corresponding corrective method. This is supposedly the purpose of correctional facilities. The criminal justice system is supposed to assist those who have done wrong to become better citizens and people. At the same time, the said system is meant to show repeat offenders that they cannot simply get away with it. Sadly though, correctional facilities have failed to live up to their purpose. Instead of helping the inmates become better, they have only served as housing for those who have committed crime, no matter how grave or petty.
There is a need to revamp the criminal justice system and correction system most especially with their treatment of women. Today, the prison population of women has grown drastically. Women are the fastest growing segment of prisoners. In California alone, the number of women who are housed in correctional facilities has grown by 850% between 1980 and 1999. (Ogden, 61) This means that their needs cannot be ignored any longer.
The most important change that must be made is to remove the prison-industrial complex. This is a system wherein prisons are not merely facilities devoted to correctional causes or purposes. Instead, prisons are used as a source of cheap labor. The prisoners serve as laborers and commercial establishments take advantage of prisoners because it will greatly lower their production costs. This is truly a sad state of correctional facilities in the country. Prisoners become raw materials as companies who build the facilities generate more profit as more prisoners are sent to jail. (Ogden, 63) Even the government is part of this system since the more people they send to jail, the more facilities they need to build. In turn, this creates more jobs. (Smith) The prison-industrial complex defeats the primary purpose of the prison. Instead of providing inmates with opportunities to grow, improve themselves, and realize and learn from their mistakes, this system plunges them to what seems like modern day slavery. (Smith, 106)
Women in prisons today are mostly underprivileged. Most of them are either African-Americans or Native Americans. White women make up only a small portion of their population. Moreover, most women in prison come from the lower socio-economic classes. Such statistics point to the prevailing fact that the prison system is greatly biased against those from lower classes. Intersectionality, which refers to the combination of two or more forms of discrimination greatly affects women in the prison system. Since women of color make up majority of women inmates, they experience harsher treatment because of two primary factors, their color or race and their gender.
Discrimination based on color combined with discrimination based on gender makes prison life all the more harder for women. For instance, Ogden wrote of how she all her earning from working while in prison was not enough to pay for her necessities as a woman such as those she needs for personal care. Pregnant inmates also are not given the proper care and attention as what Smith wrote. This is because prisons are primarily male-centered institutions. This means that the prison facilities cater to men only. Prison guards are mostly male even in facilities that are meant for women. This increases the chance of abuse and harassment for the inmates. Due to the increasing number of women being sent to prison, there is a need to build facilities that better suit the needs of women inmates.
Personal care supplies should be made available to inmates for these are necessities not mere luxuries. Also, the guards of such facilities must be women. This will lessen the risk of sexual abuse and harassment for the inmates. For pregnant women, proper care should be provided. In general, women in prisons should be treated as human beings. They should be provided with sufficient access to their necessities. Some may say that prisoners should not be provided special treatment. Some may even suggest that they should be made to suffer the consequences of their actions. However, this is not the point of correctional facilities. Punishment and suffering cannot and will not help inmates improve themselves. Instead of punishing them with a hard life, correctional facilities should focus on giving inmates the chance to realize their mistakes and learn from them.
Another important point to make is that most inmates come from impoverished families. Poverty is often the reason why most of them are led to a life of crime. Most of those who are in prison turned to drugs because of poverty. As Ogden (62) wrote, “The majority are in prison for economic and drug-related crimes.” With such being the case, correctional facilities should focus on providing inmates with vocational and technical training. Such training will equip them with necessary skills that will allow them to move up in the socio-economic ladder. Having such skills will prevent them from turning to crime again since they finally will be given a chance to overcome poverty after they leave the walls of prison.
Finally, the criminal justice system should review the law on mandatory minimum sentence. This regulation requires that people committed for certain crimes must receive a prison sentence. This law requires reconsideration because some sentences are unnecessary.
These recommendations may not be agreeable with some people. However, when considering the problems that the women in correctional facilities face, these recommendations will greatly alleviate their suffering with the criminal justice system.
- Ogden, Stormy. “The Prison-Industrial Complex in Indigenous California.” In Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex. Julia Sudbury, Julia Chinyere Oparah. Routledge, 2005. pp 57-65.
- Smith, Kemba. “Modern Day Slavery: Inside the Prison-Industrial Complex. In Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex. Julia Sudbury, Julia Chinyere Oparah. Routledge, 2005. pp 105-107.