Women in the Prison System

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Women in the Prison System

Social Injustice to Women in the Prison System

Social injustice refers to unfair practices that promote inequality and hinder social growth within a society. In the prison system, social injustice disadvantages different groups of people due to their gender, class, sexuality, and race. Women who break the law get prisoned and subjected to similar environment as their male counterparts (Cook, 2012). According to the World Report 2013, the large population of women in the prison partly indicates harsh sentencing practices exercised by law enforcement authorities contrary to international law. Prisons are full of injustices that affect women rights; these social injustices cases will be discussed in the essay in close reference to prison systems.

In the U.S., the number of imprisoned women continues to expand. Women in jail suffer from discrimination, violence, and other forms of social injustices. According to (Richie, 2012), approximately 60 percent of women in prison undergo severe physical abuses and prolonged sexual harassment. While in the prison, women are sexual misconduct objects from other male prisoners and their correctional staff. The exposure to similar environment and housing for women and male prisoners increases the risk of rape (Richie, 2012). Most prisoners abuse drugs in order to limit stress and anxiety. Due to lack of proper security and policing about women rights, they eventually get raped by male prisoners under influence of substance abuse.


Additionally, although both women and men are equally subjected to imprisonment; little attention has been employed to the social welfare problems and needs encountered by women as opposed to those of men. According to Bulletin of the World Health research in 2011, the imprisoned women are exposed to pathetic health conditions and labor conditions which are against international laws. The sentencing policies comprise of disproportionately long prison terms, treating women offenders as men, and compulsory sentencing without parole (Sudbury, 2014). Ignorance of women rights and their lack of defending power significantly harm their welfare and social conditions while in the prison. The fact that the population of women in prison remains smaller than that of men, this contributes to their omission in committees that represent their issues in the prison system.

Over the whole world, nearly all prison systems are designed to fit the majority male prisoners’ population. Due to this, women needs and challenges in the jail are not properly constituted and provided for by the designated authorities. As a result, the female prisoners undergo numerous emotional, physical, and mental challenges that exceed what men undergo. Most prison systems are unable to provide sufficient and appropriate maternity and ante-natal care (Sudbury, 2014). As a result, the social welfare of women remains pathetic, and this exposes them to great risks of death and other genital related diseases. Also, most prisons offer inappropriate access to feminine hygiene goods something which significantly affect women health status severely.

Also, imprisoned women develop various needs that relate to challenges of mental health, sexual and physical abuse, and substance abuse. Due to excessive and uncontrolled use of contraband drugs, imprisoned women develop mental diseases something which exposes them to greater risks of suicide and self-harm (Sudbury, 2014). Suicide and self-harm behavior is a major social problem in the prisons, and these are contributed by the massive social injustices evidenced and practiced against women rights in the jail systems. The excessive discrimination and substance abuse makes women prisoners respond differently over security policing and demand harsh forms of physical restraint. In mixed gender prisons, the social security policing designed for women are made harsher that those designed for men prisoners.

Further, recent research by (Condry, Anna, & Shona, 2016) indicates that most imprisoned women have children and probably offer the main care for their families. In this perspective, the prison systems need to be designed in ways that suit women in maintaining family ties. Research by (Richie, 2012) reveals that there have been increases in the number of custodial sentences issued to women despite their inability to counter offending and reoffending. This custodial imprisonment of women is a major social injustice in the prison systems especially in the United States of America. The bad experience of imprisoned women establishes damaging social conditions for mothers, their families, and children. As a result, this exacerbates mental health problems and other problematic alcohol and drug abuse among these imprisoned women.

Furthermore, severity of sentence issued to women in the prison depicts massive social injustices against their freedom in jail. Statistically, the number of imprisoned women is rapidly increasing despite their small proportion when compared to their male counterparts. Sentencing policies and law enforcement procedures applied in matters women rights are very inappropriate. The punishment of crimes committed by women is more severe than the severity of the crimes in the society (Condry, Anna, & Shona, 2016). The aspect of poverty and prostitution affect the society in terms of welfare and moral standards. While women involve themselves in prostitution, men involve themselves in theft, murder, and drug trafficking offences. It is social injustice of highest order when women and men get exposed to similar sentencing given the differences in crime severity rate committed by them.

Overcrowding in prisons contribute to the provision of inadequate access to exercise facilities. Prisoners spent most of their time in cells, and this inhibits the probability of initiating women rehabilitation programs such as vocational, educational, and counselling. Nearly 100 percent of prisons provide work training and education to the culprits. In single-gender prisons where the imprisoned women are few, access to training, education, and job opportunities are severely limited. On the other hand, mixed-gender prisons require women to attend similar training and education classes that expose them to similar works and conditions as men. In nature, women are weaker than men especially in the casual and physical works. This exposure to similar works with their male counterparts is unsuitable and far threatening for most jailed women.


Finally, imprisoned women are vulnerable to violence, torture, degrading treatments, and other inhumane acts from male prison guards. Violence and torture are social injustices, and international law is against such acts against the imprisoned women. Due to power imbalance between prison guards and female prisoners creates a room in which women get harassed, exploited, raped, and indecently assaulted by these staff (Young, Ian, & Paul, 2013). In the UK, women prisoners are greatly tortured by security guards, and this endangers their privacy and welfare while waiting to get freed.

In conclusion, there are massive social injustices experienced by women in the prison system. The helpless women continue to get tortured and harassed by prison guards and other male prisoners through exposure to sexual harassment, rape, and exploitation. The health and welfare of women is also a major concern in the prison system, and this discrimination contributes to mental and physical torture against women rights. Cases of depression, stress, suicide, and self-harm continue to be reported in most prisons, and these are social injustices that need to get resolved by the government, judiciary, and other court systems.

Work Cited

Condry, Rachel, Anna Kotova, and Shona Minson. “Social injustice and collateral damage: The families and children of prisoners.” Handbook on Prisons. Routledge, 2016. 622-640. Retrieved from: https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781317754558/chapters/10.4324%2F9781315797779-36

Cook, Rebecca J., ed. Human rights of women: National and international perspectives. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012. Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=KAMa0rwJUDkC&oi=fnd&pg=PP2&dq=Cook,+Rebecca+J.,+ed.+Human+rights+of+women:+National+and+international+perspectives.++University+of+Pennsylvania+Press,+2012.&ots=UswB7zNrwI&sig=6g_AHhlk4RH8T5cgke3_N858Ivs&redir_esc=y

Richie, Beth. Arrested justice: Black women, violence, and America’s prison nation. NYU Press, 2012. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=oKsUCgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=Richie,+Beth.+Arrested+justice:+Black+women,+violence,+and+America%27s+prison+nation.+NYU+Press,++2012.+&ots=WbS5p2JqOR&sig=LM8xnxmHUjh0MeH56nlZL-WU09k

Sudbury, Julia. Global lockdown: Race, gender, and the prison-industrial complex. Routledge, 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781317793670

Van den Bergh, Brenda J., et al. “Imprisonment and women’s health: concerns about gender sensitivity, human rights and public health.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization 89 (2011): 689-694. Retrieved from: https://www.scielosp.org/scielo.php?pid=S0042-96862011000900016&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en

Young, Jock, Ian Taylor, and Paul Walton. The new criminology: For a social theory of deviance. Routledge, 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781135006877

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