Women in Prison and The Effect on their Children
True equality has never existed in the United States. From the creation of the Declaration of Independence to the present time, the United States have failed to create a legal system free of inequalities. This paper will seek to demonstrate that gender-bias in the Criminal Justice System exists.
For instance, women are now incarcerated at nearly double the rate of men in this country, yet they receive little attention in criminal justice when it comes to reform measures. This population has gender-specific needs that differ from men in prison, primarily owing to the fact that they are often the primary caregivers of their children before incarceration. Instead of investing in counseling treatment for such traumatic pasts and rehabilitative treatment for substance addiction, the criminal justice system continues to detain women at extraordinary rates for primarily nonviolent drug-related offenses. (Ajinkya,2012)
In the last 25 years, the number of women and girls caught in the criminal justice system has skyrocketed; many have been swept up in the "war on drugs" and subject to increasingly punitive sentencing policies for non-violent offenders. There are now more than 200,000 women behind bars and more than one million on probation and parole. Many of these women struggle with substance abuse, mental illness, and histories of physical and sexual abuse approximately 85 to 90 percent.
The striking increase in the number of women in prison in this country is a result of changes in criminal justice policy. The consequences of these policies for women is seldom mentioned and even less is heard about their impact on children. Two-thirds are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, many of these drug-related crimes. Women of color are disproportionately affected: African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated. (Ajinkya, 2012).
After being released from prison, many women face obstacles in effectively re-entering society and providing for themselves and their children. Women of color, who are disproportionately poor, find themselves restricted from governmental assistance programs, such as housing, employment, education, and subsistence benefits. Many states even impose statutory bans on people with certain convictions working in certain industries such as nursing, child care, and home health care—three fields in which many poor women and women of color happen to be disproportionately concentrated.
Despite the fact that crime has continued to decline in this country, our incarceration rates for nonviolent drug offenses have spiraled out of control, and nowhere is this clearer than in the population of women—women of color in particular. The treatment of women in our criminal justice system, and the large-scale abandonment of children that it generates, are serious issues for all of us to contend with as we think about the role of women in today’s society. Few get the services they need. The toll on women, girls, and their families is devastating. (Ajinkya,2012)
According to the Department of Justice, 76.4% of the women in State prisons are mothers compared to 59.6% of male prisoners who are fathers . In most cases the children of incarcerated men live with their mothers before, during and after their fathers' incarceration (Johnston). Therefore, when mothers are sent to prison, children are likely to experience greater disturbance than when a father is imprisoned.
The the majority of relatives caring for children (84%) during their mother's imprisonment experienced major changes in their lives. Problems they encountered included finding child care, lack of transportation for children to visit their mothers, financial set-backs, giving up jobs, and relocating. (Harm & Thompson, 1995)
The children that relatives take into their homes usually...
References: University School of Social Work
Johnston, D (1992.) Effects of Parental Incarceration, Pasadena, CA: Pacific Oaks Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents
Johnston, D. (1994), What we know about children of offenders, Corrections Network
United States Department of Justice (1996) Correctional Populations in the United States, 1994 Washington, D.C.:Bureau of Justice Statistics
United States Department of Justice (1993) Women in Prison, Washington, D.C.: Bureau of
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