Differences Between Men's & Women's Prisons
In the United States, most prison inmates are male. For that reason, there are more men's prisons than women's prisons and more services geared toward male inmates.
Have you heard of the TV show 'Orange Is the New Black'? It's a dark comedy about life in a women's prison, but in reality, life for women in prison isn't funny or entertaining.There are around 4,500 prisons in the United States, but only about 170 of those are women's prisons.Prisons are correctional facilities used for long-term confinement and usually run by the state. People are sent to serve time in prison after they've been convicted of a crime and given a sentence. Women serve their sentences in prisons designed specifically for women, and men serve their sentences in prisons designed for men.
There's little resemblance between men's prisons and women's prisons.The main difference between men's and women's prisons is security level. A prison security level dictates the type and number of safety measures used to keep the public protected from the inmates and the inmates protected from one another.For example, very few women's prisons have tall stone walls, armed guard towers or razor wire barriers. Women's prisons tend to resemble men's minimum or medium security prisons.They often look like a college campus or a camp, with inmates housed in dormitories or cottages rather than cellblocks.
Women's prisons are typically less violent than men's prisons. There are fewer violent incidences between inmates and also between inmates and their prison guards.For this reason, female inmates tend to have more freedom. They can usually walk around the prison in order to attend classes or programs, eat in the dining hall, receive visitors, exercise or attend chapel services.
One reason women's prisons are less violent is because there are simply fewer violent offenders.Female inmates are much more likely to be serving time for drug or property offenses than their male counterparts.One study found that as many as 60% of female inmates have a substance abuse problem, while almost 75% have mental health issues. The same study showed that the women's crimes were most often a direct result of these problems.
Male inmates, on the other hand, are more likely to be serving time for violent crimes than their female counterparts.A violent crime is a crime in which the offender uses or threatens to use force against the victim. Violent crimes include murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and assault.There are also many more men than women serving time due to recidivism, which means repeated criminal behavior.For this reason, there are more male inmates serving their second prison sentence, or even more.
Overall, the vast majority of U.S. prison inmates are male, though the number of female inmates is growing.One study showed that the number of female prison inmates has increased by more than 600% since 1980.According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were nearly 1.5 million men in U.S. state and federal prisons in 2011. During the same time, there were around 111,000 women.In both men's and women's prisons, the inmates are mostly racial or ethnic minorities and younger than 40.Specifically examining the characteristics of the female prison population, studies found that the majority had experienced physical or sexual abuse.Most are poor, unskilled and undereducated. Many are single mothers.
Women's Prison Services
Because most women in prison are single mothers onemight think that classes and rehabilitative programs would be a priority in women's prisons.Becausemost women serve time for drug offenses rather than violent crimes, they tend to serve shorter prison sentences. Rehabilitation efforts would be reasonable, considering the women will be returning to their families and communities.However, most studies show that rehabilitation classes and programs are lacking in women's prisons.
Programs might be lacking because women serve shorter sentences. This means there's a high turnover rate in the women's prison population.Prisonadministrators and government officials may feel that rehabilitation programs aren't a proper investment for short-term inmates.Someprofessionals cite a lack of funding or inadequate training as reasons why there are fewer rehabilitative prison programs available to female inmates than those available to males.
However, female inmates might need the programs the most. Besides higher rates of substance abuse, women inmates show higher rates of depression.Femaleinmates are also more likely to harm themselves than men. This includes attempting suicide.Alsonoteworthy, approximately 60% have chronic or communicable diseases, such as hepatitis or HIV.
Women also present a unique challenge when it comes to motherhood.Statisticsshow that one in every 25 female inmates is pregnant when admitted to state prison.Mostbabies born in prison are immediately separated from their mothers, though some prisons allow the baby to stay with the mother up to 18 months.
Experts are careful to point out that women are more likely to participate in prison classes and programs and are even more likely to gain rehabilitative benefits from participation.However, men's prison programs are more developed and available.Forexample, one state allows male inmates to use video equipment to record messages for their families.Thesame state only provides audiotapes to female inmates in order to record bedtime stories for their children.
Women's Prison Culture
* Thedifference in prison culture. Prison culture refers to the customs, beliefs, lifestyles, social interactions and values of prison inmates.In men's prisons, a prison code is a large part of the culture. The prison code is a set of norms for the behavior of inmates and is based on loyalty.Accordingto the prison code, prisoners are loyal to one another and share a distrust of prison officials and prison rules.The men build alliances through groups or gangs and honor a hierarchical system based on strength and power.
The prison culture in women's prisons promotes relationships more than the men's culture.Asa result, the women often formpseudofamilies. Apseudofamilyis a unit of inmates, formed in a family structure, in order to provide emotional support, economic support or protection.Thepseudofamiliescan include up to 20 inmates and consist of inmates playing the roles of mother, father, sister, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.Manyexperts believepseudofamiliesare a type of coping mechanism for the female inmates.
Prison inmates often develop prison subcultures consisting of a shared system of customs and beliefs.Have you seen 'The Shawshank Redemption'? This popular 1990s movie depicts life inside a state prison. For two of the characters - Red and Brooks - life outside prison proves difficult. After decades in prison, the characters simply can't adapt to life in the free society. Why is this?
Asthe movie portrays, prisons are a form of total institution.Atotal institution is an enclosed area where residents share all parts of their daily lives. Inmates sleep, eat, work and relax together. Generally speaking, there are no parts of daily life undertaken separately, or privately, from the rest of the prison population.Total institutions often operate like small societies. The residents form their own customs, beliefs, value systems and lifestyles.Ina prison, this is known as the prison subculture. The prison subculture describes the customs, beliefs, attitudes, values and lifestyles of the prison inmates within a particular prison. Studies show that prison subcultures are remarkably consistent among U.S. prisons.
It's important to note that prison staff members have their own subculture and socialization process.Thestaff subculture is mostly influenced by custody and control. The staff adopts customs and attitudes in order to assert themselves in a dominant role, present a unified stance and defend against potential inmate threats.PrisonizationBecausethe prison subculture is unique to prisons, new inmates must adapt to a new way of life.Thisis known asprisonization.Prisonizationis the process through which new inmates learn the prison subculture.
For many prisoners, theprisonizationprocess involves learning the statuses and roles of the various inmates.Thesubculture is influenced by the formal organization used in prisons by the prison staff.It'salso heavily influenced by the informal organization through which the inmates categorize themselves.Statusand hierarchy play an important part in prison subculture.
For new inmates,prisonizationinvolves learning the prison code. The prison code is the set of norms, or the expected behavior, of the inmates.Thinkof it as an unofficial rulebook for inmates. The rules are similar throughout prisons in the U.S.Prison code is based on loyalty to other inmates and distrust of prison staff. It mimics a reverse hierarchy to that used in American society outside prison walls.Forexample, most law-abiding citizens consider those inmates convicted of murdering a police officer to be some of the worst offenders. However, within the prison code, these so-called 'cop-killers' are some of the most powerful and admired inmates.
One well-known prison study identified five central elements of the prison code. The elements are:Don't interfere with other inmates or tell on other inmates.Mind your own business.Don't whine or complain.Don't exploit other inmates, and always keep your word.Don't trust prison guards or staff.
For many prisoners,prisonizationeven involves learning a new language, or argot.Argotis the jargon, terminology or slang used by a particular group of people. Like other facets of prison subculture, inmate argot is similar throughout U.S. prisons.Forthis reason, terms learned in one prison are usually used and understood in other prisons.
Some examples of prison argot include:A fish is a new inmateAcellieis a cell mateAn ace dude is a best friendA homeboy is an inmate from one's hometownPrunois a homemade alcoholic beverageBrake fluid is a prescription medication, such as a sedative, given by prison staff to inmatesAbillyis a white inmateAchesteris an inmate convicted of child molestation
Now that you know a little bit about prison subculture, let's take a look at why it exists.Somepopular studies show that prison subculture develops through the deprivation model. This model holds that prison subculture results from the pains of imprisonment.Inother words, the new culture develops as a way to adapt to 'living without.' Inmates face deprivation and lack of many things. The deprivations include liberty, privacy, personal security, autonomy, basic goods, everyday services and close relationships with friends and family. Inmates adapt to these deprivations by forming a new culture that isn't focused on these things.
There are also other models and theories regarding the development of prison subculture.Theimportation model holds that prison subculture is brought into the prison from the outside world. In other words, the inmates bring certain beliefs, values, roles and behaviors with them when they enter prison.Manyof the elements of prison subculture can be found in society outside of prison walls. This is especially true in neighborhoods, families or groups familiar with or involved in criminal activity.For example, street gangs also value a reverse hierarchy system.
The integration model holds that prison subculture develops using both the deprivation and importation theories.Recentstudies show this model to be the most popular at this time. Under the integration model, researchers believe that prison environment plays a large role in the prison subculture.However, researchers believe that prison subculture is also heavily influenced by the characteristics inmates import from their lives outside the prison.