Women in Prison
The growing rate of women in prison has spawned widespread awareness in our society; leading people to question why the percentage multiplied exponentially over the past three decades. In the past, female offenders have not only been compared to their male counterparts, but to society’s view on the role of women; the roles that labeled them as housewives and mothers. But how did these housewives and mothers go from the home to the prisons? The subject of women’s issues has sporadically been discussed in our society, and it has just recently being uncovered that women operate differently than men in situations; and those differences are now starting to effect the growth rate in the population of women in prisons.
The mission statement of the Federal Bureau of Prisons states that it “…protects society by confining offenders in the controlled environments of prisons and community-based facilities that are safe, humane, and appropriately secure, and which provide work and other self-improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens.” This mission statement is similar to state prison mission statements written back in the late 1700’s when male offenders were the ones majority of people were referring to since the number of female offenders was insignificant; so insignificant that there was no differential treatment between the two. Now that the number of female offenders has grown exponentially there are not only different treatments between the two genders, but different facilities as well.
The first state prisons were founded in the end of 1700s and back then there was no need for different treatments of facilities for women because of the small population of women offenders in these prisons. Most of them held fewer than 20, if any at all, so there was no need for separate institutions. As time progressed on the population of female offenders in prison grew at a slow rate and in the late 1800s to the 1970s the purpose of prisons shifted from punishment to rehabilitation. This brought along with it the separation of male and female offenders due to different rehabilitation methods. And since the 1970s prisons have shifted back towards equal treatment, but maintain different facilities.
Using this as a background, this paper is going to address the ever growing issue of the rise of the female population in prisons. It will also provide a detailed literature review regarding the rise in the female population of prisons in four wide-ranging objectives: • To examine society’s view on the role of women and how it has changed throughout the years. • To examine how the population of women has increased throughout the years. • To examine how the treatment of women in prisons has changed since the founding of it in 1790. • To provide recommendations on how to maintain a lower population of women in prison.
The role of women in society
Fifty years ago the average person would have said that the only roles a woman had in our society is that of a housewife and mother, my how things have changed since then. Criminology theorist John Hagan did a study on the average household in 1987, developing a spectrum of types of families. At the opposite ends of that spectrum were patriarchal and egalitarian families. The patriarchal family type was reason why the average person would have made those comments about a woman’s role in our society since it was the most popular during that time. It was the typical ‘Leave it to Beaver’ family where the father went off to work to provide for the family, very Ward Cleaver-esque, and the wife would stay at home and take care of the children and maintain the home. That was a time in our society where parents played a big role in shaping their propensities; they were the power brokers in defining their children’s gender roles. It was a time where little girls were given dolls and dressed in frilly pink dresses...
References: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Profile of state prison inmates -- 1986. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice. 1988; Harrison, Prisoners in 2004
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Hagan, John, Gillis, A.R
Heffernan, Esther. “The Alderson Years” Federal Prisons Journal, 3 (1992): 20-26
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Sykes, Gresham M. & Matza, David (1957) “Techniques of Neutralization: A Theory of Delinquency,” American Sociological Review 22 (December): 664-670
Thomas, W.I. (1923). The Unadjusted Girl. New York: Harper and Row
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