Women at Five State Prison Term Paper

  • Length: 30 pages
  • Subject: Criminal Justice
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #80834550

Excerpt from Term Paper :

5%, compared to 4.8% for males). (Chesney-Lind, 1998, p. 66)

The author also re-confirms the fact that data regarding of female inmate's indicate that as cited the passage of increased penalties for drug offenses has certainly been a major factor in this increase. Again, it is also important to see that implementation of these stricter sentencing reform initiatives which supposedly were devoted to reducing class and race disparities in male sentencing, pay very little attention to gender and the particular needs of women have been grievously overlooked. (Chesney-Lind, 1998; Aday, 2003)

The advent of mandatory sentencing schemes and strict punishment for drug offenses has been devastating to women. Many states have adopted harsh mandatory sentencing schemes. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which eliminated gender and family responsibility as factors for consideration at the time of sentencing, were adopted. (5) the policy of eliminating gender and family responsibility, combined with heightened penalties for drug related violations, has caused the level of women's incarceration to spiral upward. For the year 1999, 1 in 109 women were under correctional supervision. (6) in 1997, African-American women had an incarceration rate of 200 per 100,000 compared to 25 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic white women. (Jacobs, 2004, p. 796)

A fundamental lack of research in the particular area of female inmates is another contributing factor to the minimizing of this sub-group of prisoners, as they seem to be classed. These special requirements of female inmates are often overlooked in part because of their lower population size in comparison to their male counterparts, which is of course fundamentally flawed reason. Most minorities are giving higher scrutiny, but this does not seem to be the case here. These special needs stem from the multitude of factors women may experience prior to incarceration that are often not shared in common with the male population of inmates. The fact that, "fifty-seven percent of female offenders experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse prior to incarceration, half were unemployed prior to arrest, and 64% failed to complete high school" (Aday, 2003, p. 172) certainly carries with it difficult coping needs. Furthermore, for these reasons, female offenders tend to have greater physical and mental healthcare needs (Aday, 2003; Dignity Denied, 2006). ) Females had higher rates of mental illness than their male counterparts with an estimated 73% females as compared to 50% males. Twenty-three percent of those females stated that they had been diagnosed with mental disorder by a mental health professional, this compared to 8% of their male counterparts. Mental health also seems to vary by race and age with 62% being white, 55% being black, and 52% were age 55 or older. Among women white females estimated 29% when compared to 20% of black females for mental illness. (Bureau of Justice and Statistics, 2006, p. 4)

These women were less likely to have received regular visits from spouses, partners and children; were less satisfied with pre-release advice generally; and were less satisfied with advice about money and benefits. NACRO also stressed that this group of women may experience racial discrimination in employment and that their status as ex-offenders would add to the problems they faced. (McIvor, 2004, p. 168)

These factors mean a greater burden for the healthcare system in prison. Many female inmates feel they are receiving inadequate care, and certainly lack of gender specific care in many cases. Seventy-nine percent of offenders over age 65 report health concerns resulting in direct implications of the health management system in the correctional facilities. (Beckett, 2003, p. 14) Where there is a need for more intensified healthcare in the prison systems there is often very much less. "Women prisoners and older adult prisoners have needs which are distinct from other prisoners" (Watson, 2004, p. 119). For this reason, healthcare for these populations is becoming an increasing concern for correctional facilities.

Two thirds of women in all prisons are incarcerated for non-violent property or drug crimes. Bloom, Chesney-Lind, and Owen suggest that, increasing numbers have suggested that their causes are lodged within larger shifts in the criminal justice system and its response to female patterns. The ill-named "war on drugs" has become a war on women that has clearly contributed to the explosion in the women's prison population (Bloom et al., 1994, p. 165).

Again, for numerous reasons, women inmates present with greater mental health issues, substance abuse, and sexually transmitted diseases, which display a different co-morbid pattern than that of their male counterparts. Prostitution, being abused as a child, running away from home, having illegal sources of income, and leaving education early, are all identified as leading causes as to the imprisonment of women.

Clearly there is a link between mental illness, substance abuse and communicable diseases and this is of particular concern in the U.S. where women are the fastest growing population of prisoners (Watson, 2004, p. 124). The lack of alternative treatments for drugs, alcohol and increasing responses to crimes account for a majority of the increase in prison size, One study showed that women in prison use drugs more frequently and often use stronger drugs than men. Therefore, the drug rehab programs designed for men may not be applicable to women as they may face different challenges. (Watson, 2004, p. 124) This again is due to the fact that women have different problems to deal with than men and consequently, different needs for coping. Another reason for women wanting to stay incarcerated is because although healthcare is not adequate inside, women in poverty can not afford even the bare minimum in healthcare on the outside so the healthcare inside is at least better than none at all.

Although living in prison is difficult for all inmates, anecdotal evidence and a small number of qualitative studies on women's prisons suggest that females have greater social support needs while incarcerated. This claim is important for a more complete understanding of adjustment to prisons. In particular, extra- and intrainstitutional social support mechanisms may reduce the inmate-perceived stresses associated with imprisonment and yield fewer official rule infractions" (Jiang, 2006, p. 32).

MacKenzie and Goodstien also found that "female inmates' adjustment problems increased in proportion to the amount of time served, and concluded that long-term imprisonment was correlated with more situational problems related to the prison environment" (MacKenzie and Goodstein, 1985, p. 229). In 2001 Casey-Acevedo and Bakken also did a study on adjustment of incarcerated women. Their results indicated that long-term inmates committed higher rates of violations and were more violent than short-term inmates do. They also reported that "inmates committed fewer offenses during the first and fourth quartiles than in the second and third, Researchers attributed this disciplinary pattern to anticipatory socialization. That is, inmates with impending release dates behaved better to improve their chances for release or parole" (Thompson and Loper, 2005p. 718). Older females both in and outside of institutions also report a greater sense of isolation and a lack of a support system when compared to men. Some studies have found that being involved with work related or social activities while incarcerated have had positive effects on adjustment to prison life. However, most studies have shown that prison adjustment is more strongly linked to education, race, and health status.


Since there is a discrepancy among researchers about the definition of older inmates, there have also been discrepancies when trying to do comparative studies of older inmates. "The inability to agree on what constitutes an elderly offender is one of the most troublesome aspects of comparing research outcomes from various studies" (Aday. 2003p. 16). Reports in Canada and the U.S. have concluded that offenders over 50 are the fastest growing subgroup of inmates. (Beckett, 2003, p. 12) Although most general populations of prisons are very diverse, older offenders tend to fit into three categories according to May 1994. These are listed as follows: Long-term offenders, Repeat offenders, and First-time offenders. First-time offenders that are imprisoned late in life represent the largest group of the three categories. Other characteristics are that older inmates on average tend to look physically older in chronological age by anywhere from 10-12 years and the average 50-year-old inmate is similar to a 60-year-old non-inmate. However, this claim is said to be true more so of long-term offenders then first-time offenders. (Beckett, 2003, p. 14)

According to the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, the U.S. prison population has grown from just over 319,000 in 1980 to nearly 1.5 million in 2005. Elderly inmates represent the fastest growing segment of federal and state prisons. A 2004 report by the National Institute of Corrections states that the number of state and federal prisoners ages 50 and older rose 172.6% between 1992 and 2001, from nearly 42,000 to more than 113,000. Some estimates suggest that the elder prisoner population has grown by as much as 750% in the last two decades. (Abner, 2006, p. 9)

As previously mentioned, truth-in-sentencing laws, mandatory minimums, and three-strikes-and-you're-out rules established over the past several decades are keeping more…

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