Three decades down the line, the patriarchal nature of the society made it appear less than normal for women to be imprisoned. Fast forward to the modern day advanced society, women in prison is the norm of the day. According to statistics from The Sentencing Project (2015), the period between 1980 and 2014 has witnessed the prison population of women in the US balloon by a percentage of 700 with the initial number of women being 26,378 in 1980 and 215,332 in 2014. Regardless of the recent prison trend, women still play a vital role in the society such as taking care of their children. When they are whisked into prisons, a societal dilemma as to who takes care of the children is created. The role of this brief discussion is to provide a preview of the downsides of having women in prison, more so when it comes to taking care of the children and the predicament of such women.
In an analytical study carried out by Gainsborough (2008), the existing prison system was specifically established for a man, thus, making it unfit for the female population to survive in. As such, forcing women into such a manly prison system causes women to experience a lot of problems such as sexual abuse and specifically the loss of children. The existing notion in the current society is that anybody who has gone against the rule of law needs to be imprisoned and while that is taking place, their rights as human beings need not be considered. The suffering of women in prison is a direct reflection of the suffering their loved ones (children) go through outside the prison. According to The Sentencing Project (2015), more than 60 percent of women in states prisons in the US have children under the age of 18. Children without proper guidance can end up being rebellious, thereby creating a vicious cycle of prison worthy citizens in the country. Besides this major factor, the issue of contention is who takes care of children while women are in prison.
Gainsborough (2008) begins analyzing the issue from describing the pregnant women in prison, whom for a long time have been treated inhumanely. Pregnant women in most of the state prisons in the US have undergone depriving conditions until recently, were it not for the outcry of human rights establishments that new policies were established. Not to under-appreciate the efforts made, once the baby is born, the problem of who takes care of it remains unresolved. In a study by Bastick and Townhead (2008) exploring the same subject issue, women in prisons are denied contact with their loved ones. This is a concern that is explored further by Christian (2009) who indicates that such a scenario has an emotional disadvantage to both of the parties. In US federal prisons, 59 percent of fathers and 58 percent of mothers had no form of contact with their children in 2009. This is opposite to state prisons where only a percentage of 12.3 and 14.6 were registered respectively. Children who lack the sustenance of both parents while growing up, especially the mother, have been shown to have related psychological problems in future.
While mothers are an incarcerated, two modes of childcare agreed upon by Gainsborough (2008) and Christian (2009) include living with close relatives or being put into foster care. In the analysis covered by Gainsborough (2008), living with a close relative or the other parent is usually the first consideration taken. For a pregnant mothers who give birth while in prison, studies indicate that they are only allowed to stay with their children for a few days before they are taken into foster care or to live with a close relative (Gainsborough 2008). In some countries, young children are sometimes allowed to stay close to their mothers while in prison, but they are often subjected to poor conditions. Acknowledging the fact that most of the imprisoned women do not have close relatives, Christian (2009) indicates that most opt for foster homes, institutions or agencies. Foster homes do come in handy in taking care of children who have their parents imprisoned, but they also have their downsides as covered by Christian (2009). The issue with foster care is that children can be transferred to further locations where they lose contact with their extended families and community, school, and friends in general. Such an abrupt change can end up affecting the way one grows in future.
In summary, it is rational to conclude that a woman in prison has its detrimental effects on the society, especially when it comes to taking care of the children. In most social set ups, women are the primary caretakers of children, thus, taking them away from the equation causes problems. As covered in the discussion, incarcerated women tend to suffer losses such as having no contact with their children. Contrariwise, children also end up suffering psychologically because they are forced to live with close relatives or foster care, which is not always the best of options as compared to maternal care.
Bastick, M., & Townhead, L. (2008). Women in Prison: A Commentary on the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Human Rights &Refugees Publications. http://www.peacewomen.org/assets/file/Resources/NGO/HR_Prisoners_QUNO_2008.pdfGainsborough, J. (2008). Women in prison: international problems and human rights based approaches to reform. Wm. & Mary J. Women & L., 14(271) 271-304
The Sentencing Project. (2015). Incarcerated Women and Girls. http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Incarcerated-Women-and-Girls.pdfChristian, S. (2009, March). Children of incarcerated parents. In National conference of State legislatures. http://www.ncsl.org/documents/cyf/childrenofincarceratedparents.pdf
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