Although incarceration and violence are mostly associated with males, the current statistics show that the situation has changed. The number of females who have been sentenced to imprisonment or is on probation has grown considerably. The wars on drugs, substance abuse, mental illness, and abuse of physical, emotional, or sexual character are the main reasons that make women get into prison. One can regard the growth of female prisoners as the reverse of the coin that accompanied the growth of females’ rights in all spheres. However, gender differentiation between prisoners is not only the issue of moral or stereotypic views. This problem deserves particular attention because of females’ gender-specific needs on all levels, which make their experiences in the criminal justice system even more devastating than those of men. Moreover, female incarceration has a huge negative effect on social welfare as their significance for the family is crucial. Hence, women in the criminal justice system form a specific population that faces intolerable challenges and need special treatment predetermined by their physical and emotional peculiarities. The aim of this paper is to focus on the main factors that point out that protection of health and safety of females in prison should facilitate their reentry into the community that was common for them previously.
The number of women who get into prison grew considerably during the last century. It has become twice more than the number of males and “800 percent more” in contrast to the statistics of the end of the 20th century. Non-violent offenses and crimes related to drugs were marked out by Ajinkya (2012) as the most common ones. Moreover, women of color are referred to these statistics much more often than white females. Their number exceeds the latter in three times. Racial minorities with underprivileged background form the group that risks getting into prison. Regarding the statistics of the reasons that proceed with crimes, the PRA (2005) distinguished between several regularities. Firstly, about half of the incarcerated women suffered from drugs or alcohol abuse at the period when offense or crime was committed.
Approximately 44% of females who were incarcerated reported sexual assaults during their lives. Women in prison were mostly brought up in single-parent families and lived in poor conditions. Such life obviously had a strong impact on their personality development and a high level of aggressiveness. According to the same research, full-time employment also had a positive impact on crimes prevention. However, all of the incarcerated women. regardless of the color of their skin, get under the great risk of sexual abuse and medical neglect. Women of different age are often marked out by “the disturbing history of…abuse” in the emotional, sexual, and physical spheres. Such violence is widely spread and in 70 % of occurrences is predetermined by monitoring of women in bathrooms, showers, and all other places by male guards. However, if rape, sexual assault, or extortion are considered as brutal crimes out of prison, the same actions during body searches are very often ignored. The ability to condemn prison workers for such behavior is not likely to be crowned with success. Stopping the visits of children, which can be impelled by the prison authorities, is also the violation of female prisoners’ rights that has a strong negative influence on their emotional state. Therefore, one can see that the psychological and physiological peculiarities of different genders are always the central issues in all cases that deal with this population sample. Humiliation and dehumanizing treatment of women in prisons are more influential for them than for men. Drug addictions, spouse abuse, loss of children are the events that make women need counseling and support. In many cases, rehabilitation that is necessary and can be even more cost-effective for society is not provided. Furthermore, the liaison with children and emotional sufferings of both parties are also neglected. Another inhuman and even unconstitutional treatment happens to pregnant females, who are “shackled during labor or delivery”. Such practices put under risk the health of a woman and a child. Additionally, basic reproductive health services are not provided to incarcerated females. For instance, prison limits the ability to get pregnancy testing, abortion services, prenatal care, screening, and many others that are normally accessible for any woman out of prison. Another issue regarding female imprisonment that should make the government pay special attention to justice is related to conviction background. Many of women’s crimes are connected with their attempts to defend themselves or their children from abuse.
Finally, the post-incarceration period cannot be regarded as favorable for the mental state of women who have been emotionally depressed as it was. After the release, women cannot re-enter society effectively because of the numerous barriers they and their children meet. As for women of color who come to poverty and inability to be involved in housing, they need employment or other assistance programs that could provide benefits. In many states, there exist “statutory bans on people with certain convictions” (Ajinkya, 2012). Such bans forbid their working in such industries as nursing, child care, and health care. It is a positive result of the policies implemented by the government that leads to the decline of the crime rate in the country from year to year. However, incarceration rates for nonviolent offenses, especially dealing with drugs, are still out of control, particularly when it concerns women of color. More attention should be paid to these issues as it has a crucial impact on the overall welfare of society. The relations within the family if the mother is incarcerated should be characterized as strained. It is not only because women who are in prison are practically deprived of the right to take part in their children’s upbringing, but also because the majority of children is sent to the foster care according to the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (PRA, 2005). The large-scale abandonment of children, the role of women in the society, the health of prisoners, and their treatment are the timeliest questions generated by the current discussion of women’s position in the criminal justice system.
One can draw a parallel between the experience of women inside and outside of prison in order to emphasize that the above-mentioned problems have a very strong impact on female individuals. In her work, Richie (2003), who focused on the females’ lives out of jail, pointed out their high level of vulnerability to violence in any of its manifestations. Victims of domestic or other kinds of violence require special treatment on psychological and physiological levels. Taking into account particularly emotional abuse, it is necessary to regard serious psychological consequences for females. For instance, battered women always require psychiatric treatment as they are “five times more likely to attempt suicide”. Therefore, limitation of access to shar