Dr. Helen

I Thought This Was a Parody from the Onion

Unfortunately, I don’t think it is. The Washington Post has a story from a professor of social work entitled “We should stop putting women in jail. For anything” (Hat tip: Terry Brennan):

It sounds like a radical idea: Stop incarcerating women, and close down women’s prisons. But in Britain, there is a growing movement, sponsored by a peer in the House of Lords, to do just that.

The argument is actually quite straightforward: There are far fewer women in prison than men to start with — women make up just 7 percent of the prison population. This means that these women are disproportionately affected by a system designed for men.

But could 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? The context is different, but many of the arguments are the same.

Essentially, the case for closing women’s prisons is the same as the case for imprisoning fewer men. It is the case against the prison industrial complex and for community-based treatment where it works better than incarceration. But there is evidence that prison harms women more than men, so why not start there?

Seriously? Women already get a pass in a number of crimes and often don’t go to prison for similar crimes or they are let off so a man can go instead. When women commit crimes, society views it as a mental health issue. When men commit crimes, it is because they are nasty, brutish thugs. I agree that there are some crimes for which neither men or women should be jailed but to act as if women should get off scott free because of their gender is hardly the answer and encourages women to engage in more criminal acts, not less. Men already pay a higher price for their crimes than women (as the article points out, only 7% of prisoners are women), so why should women continue to get a pass?