As the number of female inmates increases, the need for a system designed specifically for women grows with it.
The New York Times recently approached this topic in their article titled, “Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work.” In it, author Melanie Deziel stresses the importance of developing new policies and programs for women, rather than retro-fitting what works for male inmates.
Through research, as well as interviews with former inmates including Piper Kerman (author of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black”), Deziel explores how some current practices can lead to the dehumanization and loss of dignity/individuality for women.
Some key points raised in the article:
- The biological needs of women, as well as family responsibilities factor in to a unique situation in regards to incarceration.
- 75% or more of incarcerated women have suffered either physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. Typical prison protocols such as strip searches, supervised shower, and physical restriction of movement can lead to a revisiting of traumatic experiences. This, in turn, can create a cycle of repeated punishment.
- Male-oriented reentry initiatives make finding employment and having financial stability to care for their family a tougher challenge for women.
The article does cite progress is being made on these fronts; including a greater push for gender and trauma-responsive policies. But also notes that researchers suggests a complete overhaul may be necessary.
*Information and statistics gathered from New York Times article, “Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work.“