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Old 02-09-2002, 10:55 AM
bmarron bmarron is offline
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Default Announcing a Conference on Women Inmates

Here is the latest info on our symposium on women inmates. It will be
webcast live at www.law.umaryland.edu/margins.

Brian Marron

************************************************** ***************

MARGINS: Maryland's Interdisciplinary Publication
on Race, Religion, Gender, and Class

"Experiences of Women Inmates in the Twenty-First Century:
How well does the system serve female offenders and their families?"

March 14, 2002
3:00 pm - 8:00 pm
University of Maryland, Baltimore
School of Nursing Auditorium
Baltimore, MD

Dr. Kenneth Kerle, Managing Editor of American Jails Magazine and
Barbara Boyle, Director of Social Work and Addiction Services,
Maryland Division of Corrections
Professor Martin Geer, UNLV, Boyd School of Law, author of
Human Rights and Wrongs In Our Own Backyard: Incorporating
International Human Rights Protections Under Domestic Civil
Rights Law - A Case Study of Women in U.S. Prisons,
Eric Sterling, President, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
Professor Natalie Sokoloff, John Jay School of Criminal Justice,
VICTIMS, AND WORKERS (3rd ed. forthcoming)
Lamont Flanagan, Commissioner, Maryland Division of Pretrial
Detention and Services


The number of women incarcerated in America continues to rise. This presents a growing need to recognize that the incarceration of women raises many difficult issues differently than the incarceration of men. On March 14, 2002, MARGINS will sponsor a symposium to discuss some of these issues. This event will correspond with the broadcast of the radio documentary entitled "Forgotten Voices."

"Forgotten Voices," was co-produced by MARGINS and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County's Music Department. "Forgotten Voices" includes interviews with women detained at the Baltimore City Detention Center. The inmates and staff tell their stories and discuss the availability and effectiveness of rehabilitative services both in BCDC and in their communities. "Forgotten Voices" gives a valuable and intimate depiction of one facility's treatment of its female inmates. After March 1, the documentary can be heard in its entirety on MARGINS' website: www.law.umaryland.edu/margins

This accompanying symposium will focus on some of the larger issues concerning women's interaction with the criminal justice system.

Women's Criminality

First, how and why do women come under the authority of the criminal justice system? Who are these female offenders, what crimes do they typically commit, and most importantly, why? Various theories on female criminality abound. Like their male counterparts explanations for female crime often focus on socioeconomic conditions. Some theories are more gender specific. Feminist theories have developed two schools of thought on female criminality. Liberation feminists believe that as women move toward equality with men, escaping traditional gender roles, it is inevitable that women also move toward comparable offending rates. Oppression feminists disagree, stating that women commit crimes as a backlash against patriarchal oppression. Liberation feminists see offenders as agents, while oppression feminists see offenders as victims. How well do these and other theories explain the causes of female criminal behavior? How should these theories impact legal policy decisions?

Women's Incarceration Experience

Second, in part because of the relatively small number of female offenders compared to men, advocates for women inmates continue the struggle to ensure that women receive programs and services afforded to male prisoners. With respect to vocational training programs, female inmates often do not have access to the same quality of services as men. Frequently the programs are limited to activities conforming to traditional gender roles such as cosmetology, sewing, typing, and homemaking, rather than programs that could train women to be economically independent upon release.

In addition, researchers have found that gender-specific programs may be necessary to ensure that the incarceration experience is not more harsh than that experienced by the similarly sentenced male offender.

Enduring problems in female incarceration also include prisoner abuse, privacy issues, providing adequate physical and mental health care, and the availability and efficacy of substance abuse treatment for women.

Impact on Children of Inmate Mothers

Third, academia has paid little attention to the impact of female incarceration on the families left behind. Research shows that 70% of female prisoners in state and federal prisons are single parents compared to 18% of their male counterparts. Incarceration often puts the parental rights of these parents at risk. Today, twenty-nine states have explicit statutory provisions that include parental incarceration as one of the criteria in supporting termination of parental rights or adoption. Incarcerated women are almost five times more likely to lose their children to foster care than are male inmates.

The incarceration of mothers also punishes their children. The Women's Prison Association recently reported that the children of incarcerated mothers "have a greater tendency to exhibit many of the problems that generally accompany parental absence including: low self-esteem, impaired achievement motivation and poor peer relations. In addition, these children contend with feelings like anxiety, shame, sadness, grief, social isolation and guilt. The children will often withdraw and regress developmentally, exhibiting behaviors of younger children, like bedwetting…. As the children reach adolescence, they may begin to act out in anti-social ways. Searching for attention, pre-teens and teens are at high risk for delinquency, drug addiction and gang involvement." Should additional services be created to serve the children of incarcerated mothers?

Should the judicial determination of what is an appropriate sentence ever take into account the extraordinarily punitive impact a custody sentence will have on the offender's family? The recent trend of creating sentencing guidelines leave judges minimal discretion for treating family responsibilities as a mitigating circumstance that encourages probation as an alternative to prison and of mandatory sentences. This has created disparately harsh results for incarcerated mothers and their children

Legal Remedies to Gender Inequality in the Corrections System

Lastly, where salient inequalities are found between men and women inmates, how effective are the available legal remedies? The lack of some prison programs and services has been challenged as constitutionally inadequate relying on Eighth Amendment theories. However, constitutional challenges brought on behalf of female prisoners often have not been effective in securing programs and services specifically relevant to female prisoners. The challenges failed because the requested program is not compelled by a constitutional right; the lack of the program does not amount to cruel and unusual punishment, or the program's focus on the unique needs of women negates the equal protection argument because with respect to program the male and female prisoners are no longer similarly situated. How have challenges to the inadequacy of gender-neutral programs provided to women fared since the Supreme Court's most recent and relevant application of the heightened scrutiny standard for gender discrimination in United States v. Virginia, 515 U.S. 515 (the VMI decision)?

How does that decision meld with the holding of Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987) that the proper inquiry for prisoners' claims of constitutional violations is "whether a prison regulation that burdens fundamental rights is reasonably related to legitimate penological objectives, or whether it represents an exaggerated response to those concerns"?


To participate in this symposium as a panelist please contact MARGINS at:

University of Maryland School of Law
515 West Lombard St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 706-7151

MARGINS invites panelists to present papers between 15 and 50 pages long. For consideration for presentation and for publication in the next issue of MARGINS please submit abstracts via email to the above address by February 13. Presenters will be notified by February 20, and will please submit a complete draft by March 6 to be shared with co-panelists in order to facilitate the discussion on March 14.

If you would like to attend the symposium, please RSVP by March 6, 2002, by calling MARGINS at 410-706-7151 or via email at margins@law.umaryland.edu.


Brian P. Marron David Russell
Editor-in-Chief Executive Editor
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