I checked out the website Women and Prison: A site for resistance, and read an interesting article about women in prison on drug charges and the effects that has on their families. This made me curious because they also cited different statistics that showed housing a person in prison for a year is as much as a years worth of tuition at Harvard. I may not know how much it costs to go to school there, but I can bet it is a lot more that the UofM. So what makes me curious is that there isn't more opposition to the prison system. Everyone just wants to lock away criminals and addicts. Put them in a corner where they can't bother people; but that isn't a solution. Instead, as the article says, and I agree with, there needs to be mandatory rehabilitation. What I don't understand is the conditions of a drug rehabiliation center to start with. If someone is an addict, they shouldn't have the luxury of coming to rehab of their own free will. When someone gets caught in posession of illegal substances, and their clearly abusing them, society should help. It never made sense to me to send someone to prison for drugs. They clearly have deeper underlying psychological issues that need to be addressed with a liscenced psychiatrist. Most likely they should be on some psychologcial prescription medications, not thrown into a cell with other drug addicts and criminals. If I were a drug addict trying to clean up my act, the last place that would help me recover is prison. Heck, someone with an addiction will probably start back up when they get out because of all the psychological stress being locked up would ensue. If we really want to make society better, we need to stop locking up addicts with murders and other criminals. Instead these people need to be seen by a professional who can help them through their issues. Rather than providing thousands of jobs to psychology and sociology majors in prisons, they could offer those same people jobs helping to rehabilitate addicts. I've been told how hard it is to get a job with a psych degree, because my relatives got this degree and they work at a prison now. I can promise you that wasn't their dream. I bet if the community they lived in offered a psychiatric ward for addicts in a wing of the prison they would jump at the chance to hold that job. Deep psychological issues need to be addressed in these people, rather than hiding them away from the rest of the public and their families.
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I chose to look at the website, Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance. I read an article by Kari Lyderson about prostitution and how many women are incarcerated for prostitution and many men are not prosecuted for buying sex. This article was really amazing. I think that the PIC and sex work have a lot in common in terms of how they demean women. Here are some facts about prostitution-
Girls usually enter around 14 years of age. They are also usually victims of child molestation.
In Chicago alone over 11,500 women have prostituted themselves for drugs.
At the Cook County jail 41% of the women there who were prostitutes had been sexually abused as a child.
About 50% of men who picked up prostitutes have previously been charged with some form of assault against women.
Prostitutes are raped on average of 10 times more than any other form of sex work.
Even in sex work women of color earn more than their white counterparts.
Police officers often abuse women of color who are prostituted.
Prostitutes are beaten and abused daily by their pimps.
If prostitution were legalized a black market would still develop and hurt women the same.
"The evidence of what happened in countries where prostitution was legalized is terrible," said Raphael. "In Australia they legalized prostitution and it went from 40 to 94 brothels. They are supposed to be licensed, but now there are unlicensed brothels for tourists. Asian girls are being trafficked into these brothels, girls from Thailand who are 10 or 15 years old are being brought to Sydney."
Even if prostitution were legalized women would still have to face the same emotional abuse as well as physical abuse and rape they do now. All of these things like rape ad abuse are illegal yet our court systems choose and will continue to choose not to prosecute the men who commit these crimes because of this countries obsession with believing and perpetuating rape myths.
Prostitution does not exist because it is a woman's choice; it exists because men, as a class, demand a sub-human group of people who are available for the unconditional sexual service. These men who buy and sell women, who treat women as slaves, are not incarcerated. This is a problem.
While I found browsing Critical Resistance, Women And Prison: A Site For Resistance, and Corrections enlightening, I agree with grapefruit's sentiment, that something was left to be desired. For me, this deficiency was keenly felt in terms of citations. The groups make many strong accusations, which may certainly be true, but I had difficulty finding sources for them.
I am not trying to be nit-picky, for lack a better phrase, and overshadow the hard work of the members of these initiatives and their persuasive arguments for prison reform. Instead, I worry that anti-reform readers will discredit this hard work, and the goals of these groups won't be realized. Take, for example, an excerpt from the CR Statement on Policing:
When people die at the hands of the police, more often than not, the state concludes that the use of force was reasonable [according to whom?]. Police review boards are completely useless.
First, this statement would be much more persuasive if statistics on use of force rulings were presented. Second, while it may or may not be true, I'm not sure that calling review boards "completely useless" adds credence to CR's argument.
For another example, Women and Prison: A Site For Resistance had an excellent draft of a Bill of Health Rights for Incarcerated Girls, but some of the rights are in need of quantification if they are to be implemented:
5. Proper Hygiene. We believe girls should have more time to bathe, quality bathing products, as well as clean clothes and towels more often.
While I certainly agree that incarcerated girls deserve the right to proper hygiene, neither the current nor desired situations are described - how much time is "more time to bathe"?
I explored the link under "women and prison: a site for resistance." This site had a lot of interesting items to check out. One thing that caught my attention was the calls from home project. This project involves people calling in and recording uplifting messages for inmates to receive during the holiday season. This made me curious because I had never thought of doing nice gestures for people in prison. It made me think about the fact that while I had never really thought about it before, just because someone is in prison does not mean that they do not deserve anything nice to be done to them. Some people do not even deserve to be in prison, and it is really nice that people have realized this and come up with ways to help motivate those behind bars. I read the interview with Yolanda Mills and that also made me very curious. It made me wonder about how people who have had such a long bad history can decide to turn their lives around. I had also never thought about the fact that prison can be a place that some people want to be because it has better living conditions than they have otherwise. The interview as a whole made me curious as to how people can treat others so poorly.
I decided to look through the Critical Resistance Website. I found this to be a very interesting site. In high school, the idea of abolishing imprisonment was brought to our attention a lot. It was something that our teachers liked to discuss. When thinking about imprisonment and if it is productive or counter- productive, I don't really know. This is where my curiosity comes in. I am for a better world, but sometimes harsh punishment is what is needed for the really "bad guys." The Critical Resistance vision is to abolish imprisonment completely. I wonder if this is even possible. They mention instead of prison for criminals, they create places for criminals to get back on track in life. Maybe this would work, but for some, it seems as if they were born criminals. When let go, they are right back in jail a few months later. If coming upon a repeated criminal, I think the tough punishment is needed. We can only deal with and help one person for so long, until we can't help them anymore. The Critical Resistance website has very good ideas, and i agree with making changes. But I wonder if it is truly realistic to completely abolish imprisonment?
While looking over the Women and Prisons site, I came across a couple of articles that made me curious. The first was about illegal strip-searches. As an Illinoisan, I know that Chicago cops have a reputation for being crooked, but the fact that there were over 3,000 women filing a case about this seems ridiculous. Adding to the injustice, the strip-searches were used as a form of humiliation and degradation, and most men were not strip-searched as much as women were. The excuse was that women have more orifices to conceal a weapon. The sheriff was male; had there been more female officers, would the illegal strip-searches still taken place?
The second article was about transgender individuals in prisons, specifically male to female (MTF) individuals. The amount of MTF's to be incarcerated within their lifetime is about two-thirds, dwarfing the African-American male incarceration statistic of one-fourth. This is because they have a hard time finding a job and are often pushed towards underground economy activities such as prostitution and drug-dealing. Also, MTF's are placed in male prisons with the general population, becoming targets of rape and molestation. With someone going in for larceny or some other non-violent offense, he/she may leave HIV-positive.
I looked through the "about us" section on Critical Resistance.
Critical Resistance is a movement which seeks to abolish the prison system. The use of the word "abolition" is supposed to be analogous to its use during the fight to abolish slavery: just like slavery, the prison system doesn't need to be reformed, it needs to be abolished. I think this is a very appropriate analogy because many have likened the US prison system to US slavery. This and other statements and beliefs the site listed made me interested and relatively on board with their cause, but as I read on I found a few problems.
Namely, they cannot seem to articulate what the alternatives to a prison system would be. I understand that a low percentage of people are incarcerated for extremely morally reprehensible crimes (like rape, murder, child abuse), and that the majority of the prison population consists of those who were, so to speak, victims of their environment. The latter category are those who, arguably, should not be in prison and whose crimes could have been prevented had they lived in an environment with access to things like food, shelter, employment and education. However, I cannot wrap my head around a society with no prisons for the former category; here is where I think that perhaps reform is a better option.
Critical Resistance did not have any ideas, that I could find, for what to do with people who commit the aforementioned morally reprehensible crimes. I do, however, think the US prison system is a pretty good example of how not to operate. A person need not be stripped of their humanity or rights as citizens (I will never understand why felons shouldn't be able to vote) when they are incarcerated. I am curious about alternative prison systems and about what exactly a prison-less society would look like.
As I explore Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance, so many things make me curious. I focused on the section entitled "Motherhood and Mothers in Prison," and was absolutely appalled at what I read. In Kimberly Burke's Do I Have to Stand for This? , I could not believe how poorly the author's son was treated by the prison guard. Why do the guards have such hatred for the inmates? I have to believe that, unsatisfied with their own lives, the guards feel the need to take out all of their anger and frustration in the one way they can--against the inmates. However, it made me curious as to why the guard needed to "continually spew[ing] hatred with her eyes" towards Burke's son. Just because the son is a child of an inmate, the guard has no right to harass him in such a way.
I was also fascinated with and horrified by Rachel Roth's piece entitled "Pregnant, in Prison and Denied Care." I cannot believe how trivially the pregnant inmates are treated. I have to wonder why the guards, nurses, and other employees at the prisons or jails feel as though the medical needs of the inmates should go unattended to, especially when there is the life of another at stake. Furthermore, I am curious as to why there are so few rights afforded to incarcerated women. I understand that when one breaks the law, he or she forfeits some rights, however the right to have one's basic health needs met should never be taken away, especially when most of the women who are incarcerated, according to Roth, are "serving time--or stuck in jail because they are too poor to make bail--for nonviolent crimes." Roth also notes that "institutions of confinement are not required to report the pregnancy outcomes of the women in their custody." This, I cannot believe. I am appalled and curious as to how these institutions are simply not required to report the births or miscarriages of the women in their custody. How can society work to better these institutions for the women who are incarcerated in them if the data surrounding the facilities are not made public, let alone recorded? A very interesting and dismaying topic indeed.
As I begin to read about the Prison Industrial Complex I am interested in the intersections of race, sexuality, class, and gender. The inequalities within the system are very evident based on the statistics of the groups of people held in prisons across America. Angela Davis talks about how the numbers of people in prisons have risen exponentially in recent years. It seems as though imprisonment is how the government has chosen to attempt to solve societal problems. But rather than providing services or outreach to those who need help, these individuals are being locked up and forgotten about. The racial inequalities in prison is alarming, as over 1/3 of young black men in this country are in prison. One could argue that this is present-day form of slavery. It's obvious that the system is set up for these groups to fail and struggle, and that is injustice. In many cases, money can keep individuals out of incarceration, which highlights the class oppression occurring. Lower income groups fill the prison cells. I am curious how the inequalities play out within the prison. Are women and men treated equally? Are certain groups being handled more aggressively by the guards? The drastic increase of inmates is an issue to be questioned and evaluated. What has changed?
I appreciated Angela Davis' critiques on the Prison Industrial Complex's recent boom--I hadn't known what that PIC term really meant, and she highlighted many interesting issues from the sheer numbers of people incarcerated to the many inmate abuses that occur in the prison system. What I found most interesting in her piece was her initial discussion of imprisonment ideology; she points out the pervasiveness of imprisonment as a solution to social problems, and the lack of evidence that imprisonment in fact ameliorates crime and improves life "on the outside" or "in the free world". I am reminded again of the quote Sara presented to class the other day; if we jump to the question of "why gender inequality in prisons?" or "why abuses in the prison system?", we might miss the question of "why prison?" in the first place.
It would be pertinent to evaluate the reasons that imprisonment seems to be the best, default option for crimes or social deviancy. That alone is a hugely important issue that is so often taken for granted, but Davis doesn't quite explore this topic in enough depth to pose viable alternatives. How might we envision a society without prisons? How might "crimes" be defined differently; how might perpetrators of crimes continue to be a part of society without relegating them to prisons?
Although Davis discusses abuses of prisoners who may be in prison over something she suggests to be almost superficial or sympathetic ("non-violent drug use" as she mentions in the sound clip, or violence against an abusive partner, as she mentions in her article), she doesn't really address more serious, complex crimes, that in some ways might justify imprisonment in the minds of the public (such crimes may include the murder children, rape, etc.) Without a doubt, we have some serious problems in addressing mental illness and criminality in this country, but it does not make the conundrum of how to address serious crimes any easier to address. Is there a point at which a crime could be considered serious enough to justify imprisonment? Could imprisonment be rehabilitative, if the PIC were reevaluated and reformed?
I looked around the Critical Resistance website, read the FAQs and was curious, why is this a feminist issue?
I understand that the female prison population has risen exponentially in past decades, but looking at the entire construct of the PIC through the lens of the Critical Resistance website, the issue is not women offending, it is offending in general. The prison system is problematic because lawmakers get votes by vocalizing they will be "tough on crime" and lock up more and more individuals for minor offenses. The prison population increases and prisons become overcrowded, resources get used up and recidivism rates rise, creating a cyclical effect.
My understanding of Critical Resistance's objective is to acknowledge that the current PIC is not effective and should be abolished. While their intention is noble, I have noticed obvious concern over violent offenders- murderers, rapists and pedophiles are recognized as dangerous, but what should be done with them is controversial. Instead of abolishing the prison system, it needs to be reformed. By maintaining a system of higher accountability, as Critical Resistance desires, but keeping prisons as an option for violent offenders could allow a place to attempt to reform these individuals.
I am curious to know more about corrections as applied to solely female offenders. How is parole, incarceration and the court system different between genders? Why are there differences, if there are any?
Reading the FAQs of the Critical Resistance website piqued my curiosity. Essentially, this website represents an organization called Critical Resistance, which "seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. We believe that basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what really make our communities secure. As such, our work is part of global struggles against inequality and powerlessness. The success of the movement requires that it reflect communities most affected by the PIC. Because we seek to abolish the PIC, we cannot support any work that extends its life or scope."
The FAQs of this website were mostly refutations of typical arguments against such a prison-less society that Critical Resistance advocates. The arguments seemed largely to center around the idea that the PIC is simply reactionary. For this reason, it seems to me that there is an interesting parallel between this and preventative medicine. However, in this instance, Critical Resistance advocates abolition of the PIC completely, whereas preventative medicine proponents simply advocate a larger focus on treating for potential diseases and illnesses before they occur and not getting rid of the specialists who treat these diseases and illnesses when they do occur.
This, then, brings us to the crux of the argument. What do you do when an "outbreak" does occur? How are you supposed to deal with a murderer if there is no prison system? A rapist? A pedophile? Indeed, this is even a frequently asked question that Critical Resistance answers. Nevertheless, Critical Resistance does not seem to offer an alternative other than reevaluating the value of the existing system. This is a recurring theme throughout the remainder of the FAQs.
While I agree with the arguments that Critical Resistance makes, I am not sure how exactly they plan to accomplish their goal. If they cannot offer a substantive alternative to prisons, how are they going to convince the rest of the United States? Thus, reading these FAQs made me curious, what would happen to someone who murdered someone else in a society without prisons? What would be the standard procedure? Should there be a standard procedure?
- Spend some time (around 20 minutes or so) exploring the site.
- In a 200 word post, describe a few things on the site (or on specific parts of it) that made you curious and why.
OPTION 2: How do the readings make you curious? You can engage with this question in any way that you wish as long as you follow these basic rules:
- Your direct engagement must address at least one of the readings
- Your direct engagement should be aimed at making us curious and demonstrate a respectful and critical engagement with the ideas/readings
- You may include your own opinions about the readings, but those opinions must be explained and supported by examples (from the readings, your experiences)
- You should include some sort of question that you pose to your readers
In discussing how the readings make you curious, you could think about these questions--Were there terms or concepts that didn't make sense or that you weren't familiar with? Are there certain issues that you would like to know more about? Were any aspects of the readings confusing? Are there certain claims that you strongly agree/disagree with and that you would like to read how others feel/think about them?