of Women in Custody in the United States
A report by Amnesty International,
Abuse of Women in Custody - Sexual Misconduct and Shackling
of Pregnant Women, reveals that many states have a poor record
of providing women inmates with fundamental protections against
sexual abuse and that many allow -- or even require -- the shackling
of women during pregnancy and labor. On this Web site, the findings
of Abuse of Women in Custody are presented state by state, and
the section will be updated regularly for use as an activist
Facts about Incarcerated Women
Female inmates comprise
about 6% of all inmates, yet they are the fastest growing segment
of the total prison population. The yearly growth rate for female
incarceration is 1.5 times higher than the rate for men. Women
now make up a greater percentage of today's prison population
than ever before.
With the advent of mandatory
sentencing laws in the mid-eighties, the female prison population
has exploded throughout the country. Nationwide the female prison
population grew by 592% from 12, 279 in 1977 to 85, 031 in 2001.
In l986 in California the female inmate population was 3, 564.
Today the population numbers approximately 11,000. This constitutes
a statewide increase of approximately 340 %. According to the
California Department of Corrections, every prison in the state
is operating at 190% capacity today, at a cost of $30, 929 per
More women are incarcerated
for non-violent drug offenses than for any other crime. In California
78 % of women are incarcerated for non-violent crimes which
are usually drug related. Despite the fact that drug addiction
is one of the primary causes of female incarceration, there
are very few drug treatment options available to incarcerated
women in this state. The California Institution for Women and
Valley State Prison for Women each offers a substance abuse
program that provides treatment to approximately 50 women at
a time. Criteria for entering the program is very narrowly drawn,
and often excludes the women who have the greatest need for
The majority of women
in prison are mothers, and they are usually the primary caretakers
of the children. The huge increase in female incarceration has
significant impact on children and families. An incarcerated
woman is at risk of losing her children to the foster care system,
and many of the women eventually lose their parental rights
altogether. The legal process usually commences while the women
are in county jail where there is no legal assistance available
and notification of court proceedings is unreliable at best.
The separation from family, and the risk of losing their children,
is one of the most devastation consequences of female incarceration.
A 1995 study of women
in the California prison system found that 71% had experienced
ongoing physical abuse prior to the age of 18, and 62% reported
ongoing physical abuse after the age of 18. 41% of the women
reported sexual abuse prior to the age of 18 and 41% reported
sexual abuse after the age of 18. (Barbara Bloom, Barbara Owen,
Profiling the Needs of California's Female Prisoners) Despite
these numbers the Department of Corrections does not offer counseling
programs for victims of sexual abuse. The only program for victims
of physical abuse is the inmate activity group, Convicted Women
Against Abuse (CWAA) where the women try to help themselves
and each other to deal with their abuse.
AND SANE REDUCTIONS IN PRISON SPENDING
As of October 1, 2003
there were 161, 917 people incarcerated in the State of California
at an average cost $26, 125 per person per year. It is currently
estimated that the Department of Corrections will overspend
its budget this year by $544 million dollars which is largely
due to pay increases, overtime, and other benefits granted to
the prison guards union (CCFPOA) by former Governor Gray Davis.
Eight percent of incarcerated
persons are female whose incarceration costs are slightly higher
those of men due to greater medical needs. Several thousand women
are currently serving life sentences, mostly for convictions involving
domestic violence or passive participation in crimes committed
by men. The recidivism rate for female lifers is LESS THAN 1%.
Women who have been sentenced
to life terms simply do not re-offend. Nevertheless, Governor
Davis bowed to the pressures of CCPOA and refused to approve parole
for all but 3 battered women during his term Since his election,
Governor Schwartzenegger has released 3 people but refused to
parole 5 others.
Due to the draconian increases
in sentencing, and the refusal to parole lifers the prison population
has aged dramatically with attendant increases in illness and
health care costs. For example, Helen Loheac is 81 years old and
has served nearly 13 years for a conspiracy case in which no one
was killed or injured in any way. Helen is transported to Riverside
General Medical Center 3 times each week for kidney dialysis.
It has cost the state approximately $750,000.00 for her treatment
thus far. The BPT is currently investigating her case for possible
clemency but the case is currently "on the back burner"
due to case load pressures.
CCWF has a population
of 435 lifers, 66 of whom are sentenced to life without the possibility
of parole (LWOP). CIW has about 290 lifers, 23 of whom are LWOPS.
65 lifers at CIW are 55 years of age or older, the oldest being
81. This population tends to be chronically ill and expensive
to care for, but the real cost is the salaries of prison guards,
and the padding of transportation costs. Attendant costs that
run in the millions, but don't appear in the CDC budget are the
medical malpractice settlements that amount to millions of dollars
per year due to the poor medical care.
The following suggestions
would drastically reduce prison spending and pose no threat to
Release all battered women as required by law
Release all women who are aged and/or chronically ill
Amend PC 1170(e) to permit the immediate release of inmates who
are terminally ill
Uphold all parole recommendations of the Board of Prison Terms
Provide drug treatment rather than incarceration
Time Takes Priority over College Education
November 19, 2003
Most of us know someone
that has gone to prison or someone that might be headed in that
A study conducted by CNN
found that, at the end of 2001, one in every 37 adults had been
imprisioned at some point in their life. Each inmate costs the
state $28,000 to $35,000 annually, according to Sue North, chief
of staff for state Sen. John Vasconcellos, a member of the Senate
committee that oversees prisons.
It tends to be quite a
fine to society. California alone spent 25 billion dollars in
housing such convicts. This, compared to the $9.7 billion allotted
to higher education, is quite a chunk of our budget. This is the
same budget that is in a deficit.
What is wrong with the
United States when we as a country have 5% of the worlds
population and 25% of the prisoners?
Last year 6.5 million
people were involved in the California corrections system in one
way or another. That is a scary number but what is even scarier
is to look at what exactly this means for 6.5 million families
that were effected by this lock up.
It is without debate that
the majority of these families are lower class, unemployed or
The large majority of
these prisoners are men. 1 in 4 black males is said to be have
been arrested. This leaves single mothers, even poorer families,
and more strain on our welfare, unemployment and prison systems.
With the growing numbers
of ex-prisoners means more people in society have difficulty finding
jobs because they have felony convictions. If you were an employer
and given the choice between an ex-con or a non-ex-con, who would
The current slight recession
makes it hard enough to find a job. If you dont work, you
are left with few options other than crime.
We have made it so that
ex-felons cannot even vote. We are overlooking a large part of
society when we deny these people a constitution given right.
Since these are mainly
poor and minorities it is very easy to look pass them. Especially
when our judicial system is run by rich white men.
The chunk of individuals
who are effected most by the law cant even vote on it.
You can give a man 15
years in prison because he comes home and sees his wife cheating
on him and kills her.
The penalty of the crime
almost assuredly didnt deter him. He was heated and out
of his mind when he killed them both. We will have to pay up to
$525,000 to house him for his term.
Would it hurt if we only
put him in for five years?
When he gets out I would
bet money on him never committing the same crime again.
There needs to be a societal
reform. The present trend with laws like three strikes is to lock
people up and throw away the key. We are definitely locking them
up but we are paying for it.
Throwing away the key
is costing us three times as much as what is allotted to higher
education. Locking up everyone for even longer means that children
go without parents and wives without husbands. We need to correct
people instead of warehousing them.
The number of people sent
to prison for the first time tripled from 1974 to 2001 as sentences
got tougher, especially for drug offenses. There are more ex-prisoners
as well, the result of longer life expectancies and a larger U.S.
Looking at the bigger
Schools Not Jails! (http://www.studentsforjustice.net/article07.html)·
The California prison budget this year will increase by $16 million
· From 1852 to
1984 (132 years) California built 12 prisons
· From 1984 to
1998 (14 years) California opened 21 new prisons
· From 1988 to
1998 (10 years) California built 1 CSU and 1 UC campus.
The report concludes that
Californias higher education systems face many challenges
over the next several years, chief among them being increasing
The Post-secondary Education
Commission recently updated its 1999 enrollment projections and
now estimates that nearly 442,000 new students will enroll in
the community colleges, State University, and University of California
between 2002 and 2010. Published by The California Postsecondary
Our problem remains with
a state congressional branch that is afraid to commit political
suicide by going soft on criminals. The only way that
we can possibly change is to have a change of heart.
It might be a possibilty
that criminals are criminal for other reasons than making unwise
decisions. Going soft on criminals is nothing more
than trying to help other human beings.
Should we lock up Taylor
and throw away the key?
Send comments to email@example.com