Correctional Services and the Gender Issue

Any political system must have a kind of a legal system or another. The legal system is all about the administration of justice, a system where redress is sought by victims of offences, as interpreted by a given political system. It is natural that human beings are in one way or another egocentric in their operations. It is human nature, and so, one would try as much as possible to satisfy his or her egocentric interests will little or no concern at all to the society around. Also because different people have different immediate needs, one’s interests may clash with another’s, thus creating a condition of conflict.

The legal system is therefore sort of institutions aimed at guiding the conduct of individuals and other legal persons in a society, with sanctions aimed at deterring or forcing compliance to the laid down structures. The legal system therefore plays a major role providing for people to seek legal redress in formal manner, unlike in the past where things were conducted traditionally. Through the system the notion of mob justice (or mob injustice) is reduced as there are other ways that the offender can be apprehended and brought to justice.

Debate has been, and is still raging as to the conduct of criminal law or civil law procedures on matters of gender. It is a fact that women are as criminal as men, and so the legal system or the correctional measures at that should not be markedly different. This is as far the gender debate on equality (or equity) goes, thus fundamentally both gender are equitable, if not equal. The purpose of according correctional measures is largely to make someone come up in line with the expectations of the society. It is simply to correct the person to go by the demands of societal norms.

Whenever, therefore, a woman commits an offence, correctional facilities should be consulted just as when a man has committed the same offence. As the issue is being addressed, however, it should be borne in mind that women are sometimes vulnerable to afflictions, on the basis of their biological make-up. They are often victims of sexual harassment from men, as they are rightly or wrongly perceived as the weaker gender of the two. Some men, in fact, have an attitude that women are mere sex objects, just to satisfy the former’s egocentric sexual desires.

This is reason why there have been complaints that women’s rights have been violated within the correctional facilities, manned by men. Such, then, are issues that need to be addressed in this discussion. Women constitute a negligible population of prison inmates, a mere 5. 7% on the basis that they are higher in population growth. However, their cells are often overcrowded. The existence of stereotypical views, as argued by Burke & Adams (1991) only serves to deteriorate further a case is already deteriorated.

It therefore leads to sex discrimination in the cells, thus defeating the purpose of correction. The women population is growing at a relatively higher rate to that of men. This would mean that with the continuing economic troubles, the rate of women to be incarcerated will rise as well. As of March 1991, a report put the number of incarcerated women in the United States of America at 44,000, comprising 5. 7% of the total prisoners in the country (Burke 1991). By December 2007, the number had skyrocketed to 200,000, around 10% of all inmates in the country (Summer 2007).

There is no denying the fact that correctional services need to be reconsidered so as to suit the unique demands of ladies. As mentioned earlier, women are biologically different from men and would therefore need a different treatment when it comes to prison conditions. Due to the harsh financial problems witnessed globally; women have had some extra duties to perform, in terms of child upbringing, and sometimes fending for the family. They may find themselves drowning into drugs, thus abdicating their parental duties as mothers. The complexion of the women folk is theretofore in a flux.

Also due to the paternalistic kind of society, women’s employability is lower than men’s. in a nutshell, therefore, there should be some form of paradigm shift to have the correctional measures reflect the changing times. While in prison, women should be taught feminine functions in the family, as opposed to the traditional way where men are the almost sole beneficiaries of correctional services. Program taught hinge a lot on masculine inmates. Correctional services are meant to rehabilitate offenders, and in this case we are talking about women offenders.

It is thus worthless to have all efforts directed at the said rehabilitation, yet the classification system of a particular facility has nothing to do with rehabilitation, as argued by Burke and Adams (1991). Classification, they continue, is central to an agency’s objectives, population and resources, and so each agency should come up with its own classification system. Classification is defined as a process by which assessment of offenders is made, grouping the latter with their look-alikes for the purpose of depriving them of some liberty, and offering them some training.

It may also be termed as a punishment because the offender is denied one or a number of natural rights, including liberty, and even, in some cases, information. Tender care should however be taken when discussing classification principles. There should be no discrimination against either gender, as the scenario may create legal hurdles. The law states clearly that all are equal under the statute books, and therefore by according classification on the basis of gender, the authorities would be risking themselves into hot soup.

Further, the level and purpose of application of such classification would also count. At the state level, the purpose of classification may have bias towards national security more than any other consideration. At the local level, or institutional level for that matter, rehabilitation may pre-dominate the purpose. Such issues are therefore imperative to be considered while handling such delicate matters. Though the United States has been perceived as the oldest democracy with entrenched justice system, there are still complaints of sexual harassment in correctional facilities.

This may help with a rough gauge of how rampant the practice in other countries that are still in transition to democracy. According to the findings by Blackmore and Zweig (Oct 2008), there are many bestial activities that go on in correctional activities without any serious measures being taken against the offenders. In fact, the victims do not report these acts because they may not receive official action, or the victims may be further victimized. They therefore call for radical changes within the system to enhance transparency.

It was only in 2003 that the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed, thus paving the way for rape investigations to be conducted in the prison cells. This was a relief to human rights activists as they got an opportunity to legally argue with facts against the unbearable conditions in which inmates live. Words: 1168 Works Cited Blackmore, John and Zweig Janine M. (2003) Strategies to Prevent Prison Rape by Changing the Correctional Culture. Retrieved November 10th, 2008 from http://www. ncjrs. gov/pdffiles1/nij/222843.

pdf Burke, Peggy and Adams Linda (1991). Classification of Women Offenders in State Correctional Facilities: A Handbook for Practitioners. Washington, D. C. Cosmos Corporation. Retrieved November 10th, 2008 from http://www. nicic. org/pubs/1991/010662. pdf Summer, Nicole (December 2007) Powerless in Prison: Sexual Abuse against Incarcerated Women. RH Reality Check. Retrieved November 10th, 2008 from http://www. rhrealitycheck. org/blog/2007/12/11/powerless-in-prison-sexual-abuse- against-incarcerated-women