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Chapter 12. Incarceration of Women. Incarceration of Women. Women: Forgotten Offenders Historical Perspective The Incarceration of Women in the United States The Reformatory Movement The Post-World War II Years Women in Prison Characteristics of Women in Prison

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Chapter 12

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Chapter 12 l.jpg

Chapter 12

Incarceration of Women

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Incarceration of Women

  • Women: Forgotten Offenders

  • Historical Perspective

    • The Incarceration of Women in the United States

    • The Reformatory Movement

    • The Post-World War II Years

  • Women in Prison

    • Characteristics of Women in Prison

    • The Subculture of Women’s Prison

    • Males versus Female Subcultures

  • Issues in the Incarceration on Women

    • Sexual Misconduct

    • Educational and Vocational Programs

    • Medical Services

    • Mothers and Their Children

  • Release to the Community

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Why women tend to be the “forgotten offenders”

  • women commit fewer crimes than men

  • female criminality tends to be less serious than male criminality

  • historically, women have tended more often than men to be “excluded” from the justice system, by lenient treatment

  • women constitute a small proportion of the correctional population (6%)

  • popular social attitude tends to put all females in a subservient position

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Imprisonment of Women in The US

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Institutionalized “Sexism”:caused by low status of female criminality

  • women’s prisons are located farther from friends & family, inhibiting visits, especially for the poor

  • women’s prisons lack diverse educational, vocational, and other programs available in men’s prisons

  • women’s prisons lack specialization in treatment and fail to segregate offenders who present special problems or have special needs

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gender and crime: who’s arrested for what?

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evolution of women’s prisons

END of reformatory movement

“ran its course” by 1935; no new correctional models

1st female-run prison for women

Indiana, 1873

run for women, by women

Alderson Prison

West Virginia, 1927

1st federal prison for women.

Mary Belle Harris, warden

House of Shelter

Detroit, post civil war

1st reformatory for women.

run by Zebulon Brockway

Women’s Prison Asso.

New York, 1844

created to improve treatment of & separate females from male inmates

Elizabeth Fry

1780 - 1845

1st to press for reform in treatment of women & children

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female prison reform in 1800s guiding principles

  • separation of women from men

  • provision of differential care for women

  • management of women’s prisons by female staff

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features distinguishing female from male prisons

women’s prisons

shorter sentences


less committed to inmate code

looser security

inmate-staff relations less structured

less developed underground economy

less physical violence

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female inmate profiles

  • predominately Black (46%) or White (36%)

  • between ages of 25 - 34 (50%)

  • never married (45%)

  • some high school (46%) or graduated (23%)

  • Similar to characteristics of male inmates

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female prison subcultures (per Heffernan)

  • “square” (like ‘gleaning’)

    • situational offender

    • adheres to conventional norms & values

  • “the life” (like ‘jailing’)

    • persistent offenders

    • act in prison as they did on the outside

    • antisocial, stand firm against authority

    • represent about half of female prisoners

  • “cool” (like ‘doing time’)

    • professionals; controlled & manipulative; ‘keep busy, play around, stay out of trouble and get out’

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  • a distinguishinghallmark of the “subculture” in many women’s prisons (as compared with men’s)

    • women often cope with the stresses of incarceration by bonding together in extended “families” of convenience.

    • different women play the roles of various members of the family, including father, mother, siblings, grandchildren, even cousins

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key issues in the incarceration of women

  • educational & vocational training

    • female programs tend to reflect stereotypical “female” occupations

    • women’s programs less ambitious than men’s

  • medical services

    • women have more serious health problems

  • mothers & their children

    • 167,000 American children (2/3 of whom are under 10) have a mother in jail or prison

    • 65% of incarcerated mothers were single caretakers of minor children.

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official sexual misconduct in prison

  • number of cases of misconduct by male officers in on increase, with increase in female inmates

    • e.g., Houston Cagle & Susan Smith, 2000

  • Officers may abuse authority to compel sex by withholding goods and privileges to prisoners or by rewarding them with same

  • 42 states have enacted legislation prohibiting sexual misconduct

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