Women in the prison system face many problems, most of which involve imprisonment itself. Women in prisons often experience work and school failure, substance abuse, mental health problems, unstable family life, victimization, sexual abuse, among other things.
Social factors that marginalize their participation in mainstream society are also responsible for situations that may put them in prison, like being a minority, a single mother, or homeless.
In its current state, the prison and jail system aren’t equipped at handling specific pain points that affect women. Most of the following challenges are often unmet in a prison environment.
Separation From Family, Children, or Spouse
80% of women jailed each year are mothers, and two-thirds of mothers in prison had children before the age of 18. Mothers in prison find it difficult to maintain a relationship with their spouse or children due to obstacles created by child welfare agencies and the correctional system.
Due to transportation distances and trauma expressed by the children, incarcerated mothers see their children rarely or never see them again if they're placed in the welfare system.
Around 6% of women are pregnant when entering prison, and many mothers are denied the right to see their newborn babies. Most mothers have their parental rights wholly terminated.
Some prisons do not provide prenatal care for women. According to criminal attorneys, most states lack important policies regarding it.
If you’re looking for a female inmate in New Jersey, use Hudson County Jail’s inmate roster to contact them. It’s important that families keep in contact with their incarcerated relatives to provide support, whether that’s mother-child bonding or interactions with their loved ones.
Lack of Educational/Vocational Programs
Women’s prisons lack educational or vocational programs compared to men’s prisons. Women who don’t receive proper education while in prison are less likely to adjust when they leave, which encourages them to re-offend and stay permanently within the system.
When female inmates are offered educational programs, they’re not for roles that provide them a living wage. In general, incarcerated or not, women across the country lack the training to become independent because vocational programs emphasize traditional roles.
Disproportionate Disciplinary Practices
Women are less likely to be violent offenders than men, but they somehow receive disciplinary action at a higher rate than men. Female prisoners are victims of more frequent punishments and are treated more severely for similar infractions committed by their male counterparts.
What’s more, these actions are often cited as being “petty” at best. Women who receive disciplinary action are also physically assaulted more often than men. It’s likely that prison guards aren’t threatened by female prisoners due to sexist attitudes or general misogyny.
Lack of Mental or Physical Health Care
Mental health disorders are common in the prison system, with a prevalence of 25-60%. Substance abuse disorder, mental health issues, bouts of violence, and separation issues often go unaddressed in prison. Most female inmates are either drug or alcohol dependent.
Female prisoners are at a greater risk of attracting tuberculosis, HIV, STIs, STDs, infection diseases, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Pregnancy and reproductive health needs, including prenatal and postnatal care, are neglected. Most women don’t learn how to care for a child.
Women are also more likely to experience abuse from prison staff, which exemplifies the need for therapy. Sexual abuse is especially rampant in women’s prisons.
Lack of Gender-Based Treatment
In the one area where gender-based treatment is required, it’s severely lacking. Women face problems specific to their gender, but there are no gender-specific services that tackle them. Programs that incorporate sociopolitical, psychological, and spiritual issues are needed.
Women commit crimes often for different reasons than men. Since women deter from male offenders in many ways, the system needs to take a gender-responsive approach, not a one-size-fits-all approach. Rehabilitation also has to favor punishment in most cases.