Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The First Integration of Women into a Medium-Security-Level Prison

Women Blend in With Men, written by Dirk Johnson for the New York Times is an interesting article, published on June 1, 1987. Johnson writes about the first integration of women into an all-men's, medium-security level prison in Illinois. As men have always been imprisoned at higher rates than women, men's prisons typically have better rehabilitation and artistic programs available for inmates. The article notes that the integration of women actually caused the men to behave better. Male inmates confess to wanting to be clean and smell nice for the women, and some have even changed their behavior, being more polite to the female inmates. While this is a good idea in some ways, there is always the issue of intercourse, whether consensual or forced, and possible pregnancy. Do you think it's a good idea? I included the link to the article so you can read more about it.

"Women Blend in with Men at Illinois Prison"

Women Receiving Equal Treatment? Really?

It's really shocking how many articles sound so blatantly sexist. Take, for example, this article by Mary Raffali, published in the New York Times in 2001. The article is titled, "Judges Giving Women Prison Terms More Like Men's," which already opens up the discussion that men and women were not previously being sentenced equally. As I went on to read the article, I discovered that women were now being sentenced more harshly for reasons such as, "chivalrous behavior has changed with the call for equality," "as part of a move toward male-female equality, criminal justice removed the kid gloves," and even, "there is a perception that women are not supposed to commit violent crimes, and people are outraged." I found it a bit humorous actually, that while women are being seen as equal in the criminal justice system, we aren't entitled to equal pay.

But wait...there's more!
A professor of criminology at Hofstra University, John Wilderman, said: "Shoplifting was more of a diversion for housewives. It was a way of being deviant and getting excitement." Because apparently, the life of a housewife (women's work) is clearly sad and boring and without excitement. The worst part is, as Professor Wilderman says, "More women are responsible for a child, a family without a man, without any supports." 
A lawyer, Adrian Diluzio speaks of the changes in women's arrest trends saying, "women are taking on qualities that were traditionally thought of as male qualities. They are more aggressive, take greater risks, and have more interest in the profits." While I get that these attitude can lead to an increase in deviant behavior, can't those traits also propel women forward in the workplace or in any area where they want to get ahead and strive for better things??

Sorry for being so snarky, this article really annoyed me with the way the author and contributors spoke about women. I did find some interesting information in there though. There is some information on the changing arrest statistics, showing how women were previously arrested for larceny more than any other crime in Nassau County, NY, but since the mid-80's, have been arrested primarily for drug-related crimes. I encourage you to check out the article and let me know your opinion. Am I taking this too personally, or do you think that the article comes off as sexist?

Women Being Sentenced Like Men

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Passions Run High in Prison

"Female guards working at Rikers Island are sex-starved and promiscuous," claims NY Post Journalist Brad Hamilton. Of course this is the way a male journalist might see the female prison guards. He is going off of information gathered from Yolanda Dickenson's novel, "Taboo." Dickenson was a former Riker's Island guard and she claims that with the high female guard to male prisoner ratio, passions ran high. She tells of her own feelings, saying that the attention the male prisoners paid to her was flattering and sometimes prisoners would defend the female guards against the approaches of others. She said that the men worked out and their appearances and attention appealed to the female guards. While I do not doubt that Dickenson is being honest in aspects of her book, I do disagree with the way the female guards are being portrayed in the Daily News article. The article's opening line is, "it's one way to meet men." The article itself is demeaning and offensive to women. Hamilton perhaps draws from Freudian theory as well as the social belief that women are somehow lesser than men and inherently need them.

"Sex-Starved and Promiscuous Female Guards"

Also interesting to see, the difference between female and male prison guard Halloween costumes. Notice the promiscuity portrayed through the women’s costume, shown also in her posture and facial expression and the male dominance seen in the male's stance.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Table 33 - Ten-Year Arrest Trends, Separated by Gender

This is a published table, courtesy of that lists arrest statistics between 2002-2011 separated by gender. I encourage you to check it out and see the different crimes that men and women are charged with. The first thing you should notice is that the while 5,910,637 men were charged with a crime in 2011, only 2,083,579 women were charged. Why is this? Are men predisposed to commit crimes? Are men really just more violent and women more passive? Are women more manipulative and simply better at not getting caught? I want to start a discussion and dig through the "ideas" about why men and women are different and see if we can formulate hypotheses about why men and women commit crimes and why those reasons may differ.

Prison: Estrella, Women's Jail, Maricopa County, Phoenix, AZ

This video showcases an interesting example not only of a women's sector in a jail in Arizona, and also allows us to see how people react to the environment that the women are being held in. There are a couple of key things about what I saw in this video that I would like to address, the first of which is the predominant PINK color that is seen everywhere in G block. This video actually inspired me to create this blog in the way that I did, with the vivid pink colors over the jail cell backdrop and the sarcastic title. The women are given pink long johns to wear under their "stripes," pink sandals, pink towels and even their beds are made up with pastel pink sheets. A women's jail is an interesting environment and throughout the video, we were constantly being reminded that while they were inmates, these were still women and certain social rules still apply. They are mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends. The inmates have visiting volunteer hair stylists whom they present with magazine photos and requests for new styles that might update their appearance and improve their presentation. The women try out different makeup styles and keep mirrors to check their appearance. At one point, after an inmate is ridiculed by her mother for wearing glaring red eyeliner with green eyeshadow, she laughs to relieve the tension and says that it is only for fun, that nobody ever sees them and that she would never wear that type of makeup outside. Why is it that even in prison, women are compelled to wear makeup and try new hairstyles? Who are they looking to impress? Perhaps it has something to do with the relationships that bud inside of the prison walls. We are presented with two inmates who are considered to be leaders within the cell block. The first, Jessica "McNaughty" is a smart, manipulative women who is thought to be able to manipulate the other inmates by offering her protection, in a "sisterly way." The second is described by the prison guard as more macho and manly looking. The guard says that other women are drawn to the woman, nicknamed, "Daddy," because of her manly appearance and sexual persuasion which may remind them of men they used to interact with, before they were locked up. During an on-screen interview, "Daddy," says that her girlfriends keep getting hotter and younger. I was surprised by the sexist comments and attitudes within these secluded community. Even thought these women are cut off from the outside world, the environment they formed is filled with the same sexist ideas.
Viewers of this video on Youtube compared the women's jail to a "slumber party" or a "summer camp." One commenter simply writes, "female jails, what can I say...Luxury!" My personal favorite comment was from a chauvinist male who writes about the sexual favors he would make all of the women perform for him if he were working in that jail and how it would be "heaven for a guy." No matter what the setting, a women will always be seen as a stereotype; someone who behaves in a certain way and requires certain things.