It is strange that Orange is the New Black, a Netflix very popular show about females in prison is so popular. Well, maybe not so strange since there are more women in prison now than ever. The majority of women behind bars are there for non-violent crimes. They give C-Sections to women giving birth in prison with their limbs tied in handcuffs to the bed. Do they think a woman is going to run away during a surgery? Prisons need to be reformed and changes need to be made to address problems and try to make people’s lives better so that there is no cycle for people to be housed in prisons. Last year President Obama made history by being the first sitting President to ever visit a prison. He at least showed some concern for the ever growing prison population. There exists harsh treatment for drug offenders. Since 1980 the number of women incarcerated in the United States have increased by 700%. The population of American women behind bars is the largest population in the world. Are American women more bad asses that other women around the globe?
When the government discusses prison reform they do not even consider the women prison population. The pathway to prison for most women there is the follow up to a long line of abuse in their lives. Then they are trapped into the criminal justice system. Instead of rehabilitating people our government simply opens up more costly prisons. Women’s jail issues are theft, prostitution and possession of drugs. Well if you were poor enough to have to steal stuff and resort to prostitution for money you would also probably want drugs when you look back on your life too. Is that worth spending 20 years in prison or should they be teaching marketable skills to the women so that if they get out of prison they will not have to go back to theft, prostitution and drugs? There are so many women in prisons that meals have to be given in shifts. Many get woken up at 3:30 in the morning to have a 4 .M. breakfast. Then what do they do? Stare at a wall. Under a gram of drugs can give you a felony sentence. The law requires mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes yet they fail to take in the specific circumstances involving women.
Sometimes women get higher sentences than men for the same crimes. Why? Women are rarely found at the top of a drug conspiracy. If anything, women are abused by the head male honcho in drug deals. She will get a very large sentence by association with drug deals. This is a very irrational criminal justice policy. In 2016 then Governor Mike Pence reinstated these bad policies. All it did was give longer sentences in state and federal prisons that are now over populated. Drug adductions is the main cause for these offenders. Dealing and manufacturing Meth will get you 58 years behind bars. That is more time behind bars than murderers get. Supplies in prison are scarce. Women make tampons by rolling pads up tightly. The amount of neglect in prison breaks down the spirit of a human. There are usually multiple attempts at suicide. Instead of mandatory psychiatric help, they are put into lock down that is even more damaging to the mind full of isolation and loneliness. Nearly 70% of incarcerated women suffer from mental illness. Since they closed down all the mental hospitals are prisons where they house the mentally ill now?
Solitary confinement is the substitute for mental health rehabilitation. The only people watching them are a few employees that look through the small window in the door on suicide watches. The family displacement is a problem too. Women who have children are both traumatized at the knowledge of separation. Visits are disturbing. 60% of women in State prisons are mothers. Some are pregnant when they go to prison. After birth the mothers can only spend one day with their baby and then it is given to other family members or to foster care. That is disturbing too. Indiana is the only State that allows select n on-violent offenders to raise and care for their baby for a period of up to 18 months. There are few suicide attempts when the women want to stay alive to care for their child. Incarcerated women with children in foster care risk losing their children permanently because of a law called the Adoption and Safe Families Act. The law stipulates that in the case of a child who has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months, the state shall file a petition to terminate the parental rights of the child’s parents. Tearing people’s lives apart doesn’t make anyone better in society.
Often the woman prisoner is the primary caregiver. Being shuffled around in foster care with the entire collection of the child’s belongings fit in a trash bag is damaging to the child who feels abandoned and soon they are on suicide watches too. Separation from human caring life helps no one. Nine year old children shouldn’t want to commit suicide and have long stays in mental hospitals only to be released to an institution. The children without their primary caregiver are now vulnerable to the cycle of life’s destruction. No woman desires to leave their child with someone they never even met. We need to get rid of mandatory sentencing, we need to increase resources in prisons, we need to build a layer of support systems so that when they get out of prison, they will not end up going back to prison. We have a serious human rights issue here in the United States that large amounts of our people are suffering from. Start with reforming our prison system before we worry about other people in other countries. Building more prisons is not the answer. Keeping people out of prisons leading healthy prosperous lives is the answer.