Who Goes to Prison

Under current policy, these complex problems are laid at the feet of the prison by a society unwilling or unable to confront the problems of women on the margin. Women confined in US prisons are enmeshed in a criminal justice system that is ill equipped and confused about handling their problems-the problems that brought them to prison and the problems they confront during their incarceration.

The prison, with its emphasis on security and population management and its de-emphasis on treatment and programs, is unable to respond to the real needs of women victimized by criminal justice and drug policy. Women in prison represent a very specific failure of conventional society-- and public policy-to recognize the damage done to women through the oppression of patriarchy, economic marginalization and the wider reaching effects of such shortsighted and detrimental policies as the war on drugs and the over-reliance on incarceration as social control.

The story of the women in prison, however, is not hopeless. Many women have survived circumstances far more damaging than a prison term and most will continue to survive in the face of insurmountable odds. The book further gives insight into the several factors that have fueled the imprisonment binge. The most powerful being the public’s growing fear of crime that have further been intensified by the usage of ‘dirty politics’ by political leaders of practically all parties.

Despite massive increases in the amount of money being spent on law enforcement and corrections and a tapering effect on the crime rate, the public is made to continuously believe (by infamous politicians and the media) that crime has been increasing and thus the fear of crime remains high. It should be mentioned that in John Irwin's solo venture "The Warehouse Prison: Disposal of the New Dangerous Class” the author states, “The rate of incarceration zoomed from 100 to over 500 per 100,000.

As a result of this expansion and the punitive ideology that underpinned it, hundreds of new prisons were built at a cost in the billions of dollars, and completely new prison regimens were introduced. In this book, I examine the causes of this binge, the new forms of imprisonment it produced, and the particular and broader effects it caused. ”(Irwin, 2005) Like most community linked organization, or in other words, organizations dealing with a lager number of members there bound to be some form of discrimination whether  one likes it or not.

But the ideal situation is to place the discrimination under a certain amount of check in order to yield a long termed fruit for the organization or, more often than not, to survive. Down the line of history there has not been a single instance in any society over every strata of governance where discrimination was not a part of the machinery. This is true for every imperial, capitalist, socialist, communist, dictatorial, anarchist, feudal or fundamental state. And prisons are no different devoid of their location - Algeria or America.

In fact, in a more recent report by Shaphan Marwah it was mention “The report's findings showed a marked discrepancy in the racial make-up of the prison, highlighting the phenomenon of disproportionate numbers of blacks and Hispanics in prison. ” (Marwah, 2002) In another report Bonnie Kerness, the Director of the Criminal Justice Program of the American Friends Service Committee, Newark, NJ mentions that  gender “has been shown to be a major determining factor in the imposition of the death penalty, and the application of the death penalty is almost exclusively used against the poor.

The politics of the police, the politics of the courts, the politics of the prison system, and the politics of the death penalty are a manifestation of the racism and classism which governs so much of the lives of the disadvantaged in this country. Every part of the criminal justice system falls most heavily on people of color, including slavery being still permitted in prisons by the 13th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. " In this situation it is but obvious that discrimination would be a palpable part of the US prison system. (Kerness, 1999)

There are multiple reports from the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The World Organization Against Torture, and Prison Watch Inter­nationale, Paris that suggest there is a predominant mode of human rights violations within the boundaries of the US prisons and these are mostly triggered by discrimination based on color and creed. There are reports of torturing and abusing mentally ill patient too. It has been further established that in many states guards have access to and are encouraged to review the inmates’ personal history files (this includes any record of complaints against themselves or other prison authorities).

Guards threaten the prisoner’s children and visitation rights as a means of silencing the women. Guards issue rules-infraction tickets, which extend the woman’s stay in prison if she speaks out. Twenty-five correctional departments may place women who report custodial sexual misconduct in solitary confinement. This issue, put forward by Amnesty International USA, is one of the most important matters that the authorities must look into to avoid further misgivings by the international fraternity of Human Rights Activists.

Apart from being sexually abused, women in US prisons are also not provided with adequate medical facilities. It has been reported that women are often denied essential medical resources and treatments, especially during times of pregnancy and/or chronic and degenerative diseases. To conclude, we all agree with the authors of the book that much needed social service and educational programs to fund ever-increasing correctional budgets are being wasted in the US Government obsessive overdrive for imprisonment.

Prison expansion in the US has cost taxpayers millions of dollars for buildings alone but the price in human terms is far greater. While there is a dramatic increase in prison population for imprisonment even for petty crimes, drug offences and technical violations of probation and parole the inner city schools of US are denied adequate funding, the streets are no longer safe and everyday millions of children wait for their parents to return home from prison.

Let’s hope that just as this book has touched the hearts of millions of readers and made us aware of the inhuman aspect of US Government’s excessive obsession for imprisonment, it touches a compassionate chord among the country’s law framers too and they too take major redressal steps to remedy the damage already done.

References:

Austin, James & Irwin, John; (2000); It's About Time: America's Imprisonment Binge; 4th Ed; Auckland: Whitehall Irwin, John; (2005); The Warehouse Prison: Disposal Of The New Dangerous Class. Roxbury Pub Co Kerness, Bonnie. (1999) Torture And Slavery In U. S. Prisons: A Violation Of International Human Rights. Sonicnet Marwah, Shaphan. (April 15, 2002) Report Warns U. S. Prisons Overcrowded. University Wire April 15, 2002