Women have generally been involved in criminal justice mainly as victims compared to perpetrators. They make up close to fifty percent of victims of criminal acts with a lesser number of offenders. Women are looked down upon in the justice system yet this has been fairly ignored by stakeholders. However, the number of women in prison is still low compared to the number of men. It is also important to note that the rates at which women are beingimprisoned for participating in violence related crimes have reduced. The rise in the number of women being incarnated is attributed to the change in policy that has for instance affected crimes related to drugs. Most women are usually involved in petty crimes and research shows that this is contributed largely by both sexual or physical abuse and emotions. The biological differences between men and women should be appreciated (Kaschak 1992, 11). Womenneeds are in most cases ignored in the establishments that make up the correctional system and this can be viewed as oppression. The following paper addresses some of the major challenges women in correctional institutions face and how they can be addressed to ensure they are not negatively affected by them.
Challenges faced by women in correctional institutions
Women serving prison sentences often face a lot of challenges that either come as a result of life before imprisonment or during the sentencing period itself. First of all, most of them are separated from their children and other important family members. A study undertaken in the year 1995 indicated thateighty percent of women imprisoned in California had children (Owen and Bloom, 1995).Such female prisoners tackle problems when it comes to maintaining a proper relationship with their children that is caused by either agency dealing with matters of child welfare or the system itself. The mother’s inability to keep in contact with the child is further dealt a blow by factors such as long distance from the prison to the homes housing the children. Most prison institutions also do not offer transport services to from the institutions to these homes. Furthermore, the little economic resources available deprive the mother of the ability to provide for the child. The children also suffer trauma that results from the arrest and unexpected separation from their mother. A majority of prisons never value how crucial a relationship between a mother and a child is. It is, therefore, important that adequate policies should be put in place to enable this relationship to develop.
Secondly, most correctional institutions do not offer treatment for drug and substance abuse. Pregnant women and those with mental illness also receive little to no assessment while within the system. The inadequacy of valid treatment and training decreases how effective the few programs available can be (Wellisch, 1997). Women that are abusing substance are likely to suffer emotional distress and cases of low self-worth compared to male prisoners. They are also at high risk of suffering infections such as tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV. Women prisoners receive little education regarding childbirth. In most instances, some are not well prepared for the delivery process leading to a high probability of complications during birth. Cases of mental illness are also ignored in equal measure. Estimates indicate that between twenty-five to sixty percent of are in need of mental checkups. Not many prisons have put in place programs to provide treatment for the mentally handicapped inmates (Abraham and McClelland, 2002). Implications of abuse that result from the experience women inmates go through raises the need for counseling. It has an impact on their well-being both physically and emotionally.
Thirdly, women prisoners have limited access to vocational training and educational programs when compared to their male counterparts.This leaves them less equipped with skills that are fundamental in the job market which can aid them in accessing employment opportunities. The vocational training available for women prisoners laid a foundation that is generally inclined towards them picking up traditional capacities.
Sexual abuse prevalence has continuously been a major challenge women face. It dates back to past years. Women in prison are always in a vulnerable position and risk suffering cases of rape and assault. Prison personnel also play a role in this misconduct being that some of the abuses are carried out by them. Examples of sexual violations include improperly touching the inmates during searches, watching the prisoners while they dress or during showers. Sexual assault also comes into play in instances where the prisoners depend on the staff rendering them vulnerable to being exploited. Their will to choose is given up and traded in for sex in order to gain favors. Measures of protection lack while inmates who have been victims of such abuses and exploitations do not have the chance of evading the perpetrators as efforts to registering complaints can be met by harsh retaliations and severe stigmatization.
Women undergoing the transition from prison life back to the society often face a number of challenges. It is always a requirement that they stay in line with the requirements of their probation stipulations or as the provisions stated by their parole. Examples of the requirements they are to meet include locating housing which should be in a neighborhood that is free from drugs if they have a history as addicts, maintaining financial stability and accessing proper medical care. Despite all theses, most women are left struggling in in areas that cannot support their parole orders. Lack of support from the community also makes it close to impossible for them to adjust to the change in environment. As a result, most of them find themselves falling back into addiction and criminal related activities. Mothers who are finding their way back into the society always have the hope of reuniting with their children. This is termed as an added burden to such former inmates who are also tasked with the duty of providing for their children (Brown, Melchoir, and Huba, 1999). As Covington (2002) states, there is a vacuum of coordination between the correctional systems and the women who are being absorbed back into the community. This renders them vulnerable to possibilities of relapsing.
Remedies to challenges faced by women in the justice system
Criminal offenders, both men, and women have needs that should be met. Individuals who offer supervision under the criminal justice system require proper training when it comes to treating victims of substance abuse. The system should put in place policies that safeguard the security and well-being of women in various correctional institutions. To have policies that effectively and conclusively address these challenges, some factors should be put into consideration. First of all, the various burden levels should be included in the forefront when designing proper programs and mechanisms. Women who are mothers should be given special attention in their efforts when it comes to being reabsorbed back into the community. The level of expectation placed on them should be downscaled so as not to put pressure on them.
The policies should also tackle the vacuum that is created by funding. Vocational training and education offered to the inmates should be up to recommended standards that will properly equip them in the transition process. Correctional systems should also provide adequate follow-up programs to help the released inmates effectively reposition themselves back into the community. Upon serving their sentences, a program should be put in place to enable women to properly connect with the community. This plan should immediately kick off upon sentencing of the individual contrary to being rolled out a few days prior to their release. Transitional services should be adequately established by the institution to aid them to have a stable foundation with their families.
Additionally, the prison system should put in place harsh penalties to perpetrators of sexual violence against women inmates. They should properly scrutinize cross-gender supervision to ensure the inmates are not subject to harassment by their supervisors. Prison infrastructure should be properly designed to ensure a safe environment for the inmates. Cases of women prisoners being assaulted sexually continue rising because the punishment that is accorded the perpetrators is not harsh enough. Victims in most cases are subdued in their efforts when it comes to making reports of sexual harassment in cases where the perpetrators are the staff serving in the correctional institutions. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) stipulates that prisoners with complaints should access all avenues in the administrative set up before they can register a complaint with the federal court. The victims are therefore left in a dilemma since the very perpetrators of such acts are the same people who commit them of facilitating such abuses that they go through. The burden of proving such allegations also rests on the shoulders of the victims themselves before they can file a substantial case in the course of seeking justice. Furthermore, the congress should make efforts in providing a statute, Protecting Vulnerable Inmate Populations Act (PVIP). This statute will ensure that first-time offenders are safeguarded against being put in the incarnation with offenders who have a violent criminal record. Conclusively, no barriers should stop women who are in pursuit of justice in such cases. Proper amendments should be made on the PLRA (Prison Litigation Reform Act) to empower victims not to necessarily exhaust all the avenues when filing a claim.
In conclusion, rights of women prisoners should be safeguarded and proper protection against cases of abuse either verbally or physically should be administered effectively. The prison administrative system should ensure that proper mechanisms are provided to make the sentencing duration conducive for the prisoners. Prisons should help shape the character of the offenders and not make them worse.