Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Yet More Women & Prison

There seem to have been a steady trickle of arguments for the abolition of prison for women in recent months, here's another. This is not something I agree with if it means treating men and women differently for the same offence although there are some offfences that women are disproportionately likely to commit, compared to their small total contribution to crime levels, which should not result in custodial sentences. Television license evasion springs to mind as a prime example. David Wilson points out the high level of suicide for female prisoners compared to male prisoners, women make up 6% of the prison population but 12.5% of prison suicides. This despite the fact that men are more likely to commit suicide in general.

It is something worth being looked at, I suspect that a higher proportion of women than men who commit crime are in need of psychiatric help for the simple reason that serious crime is so much rarer for women that it is a more extreme form of behaviour. Individual inmates from groups (defined by sex, race, income or education level) with low incarceration rates are more likely to be disturbed than individuals from groups with high incarceration rates, because criminality is a more deviant behaviour from the cultural norms for the former group so the mentally unstable will make up a higher proportion of inmates from those groups.

In short women should not be treated differently from men in the criminal justice system however more attention paid to the mental stability of all prisoners could benefit female offenders to a greater extent than male offenders.

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