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Stay in Faith, A better life is on the horizon

Social Justice Blog

Social Justice Blog

Prisonment and gender differences

Posted on April 28, 2016 at 8:30 AM

by Lucia Lacey Nevitt

The discussion takes a brief look at female population within the U.S. prison system. Women now represent one of the fastest rising segments within the American prison system. Since 1977-2009, the number of women within the prison system are staggering nearly 200,000 women are behind bars (Beck, Kerberg & Harrison, 2002; Paltrow, 2013). The departments of corrections are slow in response to the growing numbers of women who are incarcerated.

 Crimes that most women inmates commit are quantitatively different from their male counterpart (Jiang & Winfree, 2006). Even now, the prison system is built for male offenders and insensitive to the gender differences of the growing female population (Abrifor, Atere, & Muoghalu, 2012). In understanding the different reasons women go to prison and reorienting prison programs towards rehabilitation. The position here is that prisons and correctional facilities could be more responsive to the needs of female prisoners.

The difference between male and female inmates starts before imprisonment. For many women inmates, the seeds are sown in childhood, as a significantly larger percentage of women than men reported being sexually, mentally or emotionally abused during their childhood (Aijinkya, 2012). For men, this vulnerability of abuse decreases once a male reaches adulthood. In contrast, the proportion of women who suffer victimization rises when a female reaches adulthood. Women who are incarcerated are thus more likely to suffer from mental an emotional instability, which leads to chronic depression. Thereby, women who suffer from chronic depression are even more prone in attempting suicide (James & Glaze, 2006; Zaitzow, 2010).

There is also a dearth of substance abuse counseling to address the drug and alcohol problems that plague a majority of female inmates. Few female inmates have access to counseling programs that help with depression. Very few female prisoners receive needed medication for psychiatric and medical conditions (, 2014). The focus on prison as a punitive approach overrides the rehabilitative approach. To be truly responsive to the female inmate population, the prison system must take into account their different needs.

Practitioners within the criminal justice may agree that an empowerment-based approach that addresses the victimhood and substance abuse issues that, for many women, are the main causes of incarceration. Instead, the criminal-justice system continues to subject female inmates to facilities and programs that were designed for men.

The justice system as a whole should initiate policy changes that address the different needs of women, especially for psychiatric and medical. By reducing recidivism and helping incarcerated mothers to become a better person, a better parent and a productive society members, the empowerment-base approach will better address the rehabilitative needs of the inmates and, by extension, society in general.


Beck, A., Karberg, J., & Harrison, P. (2002). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2001. Washington D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Paltrow, L. M. (2013). Roe v Wade and the New Jane Crow: Reproductive Rights in the Age of Mass Incarceration. American Journal of Public Health, 103(1), 17–21.

Abrifor, C. A., Atere, A. A., & Muoghalu, C. O. (2012). Gender differences, trends and pattern recidivism among inmates in selected Nigerian prisons. European Scientific Journal, 8(24), 1-20.

Jiang, S., & Winfree, L., Jr. (2006). Social support, gender, and inmate adjustment to prison life: Insight from a national sample. The Prison Journal, 86(1), 32-55.

Ajinkya, J. (2012, March 7). The Top 5 Facts About Women in Our Criminal Justice System. Retrieved from

Zaitzow, B. H. (2010.). Psychotropic Control of Women Prisoners: The Perpetuation of Abuse of Imprisoned Women. Retrieved from

James, O. J., & Glaze, L. E. (2006.). Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates. Retrieved from

The Treatment Advocacy Center. (2014, April 8). The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey. Retrieved from



Categories: Reflection, Reducing Recidivism