When reading the opinion section of news outlets, you get exposed to a lot of interesting points of view. Most of it is usually insightful, even if you somewhat disagree with the writers, but other times they can be straight up insane.
For example, let’s talk about the piece in The Washington Post titled “We should stop putting women in jail. For anything.”
That’s right, the writer is advocating that we should completely stop incarcerating women.
Now, in the interest of fairness, I’ll agree with her on a few points:
- The USA has only 5% of the world’s population, but we have 25% of the world’s prison population. So much for “land of the free.”
- A large number of those people are incarcerated for non-violent crimes (usually drug charges) and shouldn’t be in there in the first place.
But that’s about where the agreements stop.
The writer starts by asking if “women’s prisons actually be eliminated in the United States, where the rate of women’s incarceration has risen by 646 percent in the past 30 years,” but she fails to take into account the full picture.
Let’s delve into that, shall we?
According to prison statistics, in 2013, there were 102,400 adult females in local jails in the United States, and 111,300 adult females in state and federal prisons, totaling 213,700 women incarcerated.
In that same year, there were 628,900 adult males in local jails in the United States, and 1,463,500 adult males in state and federal prisons totaling 2,092,400 men incarcerated.
Now, I cheated my way through math in high school and college, but if I’m not wrong that means that in that year there were almost 10 times as many men incarcerated as women (9.79, by those numbers.)
Not only that, but according to experts, men get between 12% and 60% longer sentences than women after “controlling for the offense level, criminal history, district, and offense type.”
The writer continues by saying that “any examination of the women who are in U.S. prisons reveals that the majority are nonviolent offenders with poor education, little employment experience and multiple histories of abuse from childhood through adulthood. Women are also more likely than men to have children who rely on them for support — 147,000 American children have mothers in prison.”
Right, because everyone knows that children rely on mothers alone, not on their fathers as well.
And the sad thing is, she’s addressing a problem that many like to ignore, that “the prison industrial complex and for community-based treatment where it works better than incarceration,” but then she completely goes off the rails when she starts trying to give her gender, that’s already given an easier time in the jailing process, a complete pass.
So, to wrap up:
Should we look to lessen the number of non-violent offenders thrown in prison and try to find better alternatives to solve these societal issues? Absolutely.
Should we completely stop incarcerating women and give them special treatment? Absolutely not.
H/T: The Washington Post, Correction Populations in the US by U.S. Bureau of Justice, Men Sentenced to Longer Prison Terms than Women by Huffington Post (surprisingly.)