Women behind bars
The number of women behind bars is increasing in various nations including the US. The increasing number is causing immense concern among stakeholders who always strive to understand the major causes for the increase. In the US, the number of women convicts is increasing each decade. Currently, the number of women in prisons stands at 206,000 from a lower figure of 113,000 and 15,000 in the years 2010 and 1980 respectively (The Editorial Board 1). The growing number calls for strategic decisions to help in managing the emerging issues affecting women that drive them to execute low-level crimes.
Currently, the US government at both the state and federal level is burdened by the high cost of maintaining low-level prisoners in the prisons including jails (The Editorial Board 1). The government affirms that holding such offenders is becoming non-viable since resources are running down and cannot sustain the high number of prisoners. This has prompted the decision to have the facilities decongested by releasing low-level offenders including non-violent criminals. This has resulted to a claim that women should out rightly top the list of convicts who are released when the plan to decongest the prisons is carried out. The claim is contentious as it sidelines men hence considered racial and discriminatory. This paper gives comprehensive information to justify the claim that is made about the need for women to top the list of released prisoners to decongest the facilities.
The claim that female prisoners should top the list of prisoners set for release by the government is valid
The relevant arguments
Various reasons and facts support the claim that women behind bars should be accorded top priority when prisons are being decongested to reduce the cost of running them. Many women, policymakers, the clergy and social activists support the idea (Talvi 2). However, others oppose the proposal stating that it is the greatest form of discrimination that the nation can witness. The critics hold that criminals are criminals and that the law should be fairly applied for both men and women.
The arguments floated even before a court of law while convincing judges to accept the pardoning of female prisoners is that the law allows for the release of low-level criminals especially when the state deems it fit to decongest the prisons to reduce the cost of running them. Those who qualify for the release as stipulated in the low are convicts of low-level crimes (The Editorial Board 1). The majority of those falling in this category are women compared to men who engage in violent including higher-level crimes. The low-level crimes as defined by the law include drug dealing, and property crimes that records show are the major reasons why most women are convicted. Therefore, the claim that women should top the list of released prisons is well placed. It is valid based on criminal categorization despite the fact that a crime is a crime and that convicts ought to be treated similarly.
Another notable argument is that the imprisonment of female offenders presents direct and extremely negative impact on their families despite their categorization as low-level offenders. The negative impact is felt given that two-thirds of the female prisoners have children and families to manage. Their absence creates a huge parental gap that lead compromises the well-being of children as they grow (Law 23). They tend to lack the much needed social touch that fuels holistic development. Due to this, those of them who are convicted of low-level crimes should be freed to take care of their families and children.
According to The Editorial Board (1), the claim that women should top the list of prisoners who are released to create space is given that the government is severely burdened to maintain them. The cost of the imprisonment of nonviolent criminals is burdening both the state and federal budgets leading to the decision to shrink the overcrowded prisons and jails. The strategy is to be achieved through consideration and prioritization of the low-level offenders and nonviolent offenders for release first (Talvi 49). Therefore, the claim that female convicts should be given priority emanates from the fact that the government seeks to decongest state prisons, and the first target group is the nonviolent criminals who are mostly women.
The proposal to have female prisoners top the list of those are released from prisons has received opposition and criticism in equal measure. The resistance is coming from male prisoners, male activists, some policy makers and legal experts. First, they hold that the move will create a state of inequality that is against the provisions of the bill of rights (Law 13). The rationale of their argument is that it is discriminatory to give one criminal priority over another especially when they are convicted of the similar offense. They state that there are many male prisoners who are convicted of low-level crimes just as women. Therefore, it will be discriminatory to priorities women instead the release pattern should give every potential person equal rights.
Secondly, the notion that women should be accorded priority when releasing low-level convicts because of family issues or responsibilities is in bad faith. A criminal is a criminal whether a woman or not and should be treated fairly. No one should have an upper hand as being proposed. The critics state that parental care is a responsibility of both parents and not preserve for women only (Law 16). Therefore, such level of bias should not occur. The issue of race is also leading to resistance of the move to prioritize women prisoners when decongesting the prisons. The critics are skeptical that the same mistake of neglecting African-Americans will still come into play. They want a system that will guarantee fairness and free from racial discrimination.
Indeed, the move by the government to release low-level prisoners to decongest the facilities and reduce the cost of operating the correctional centers is noble and highly welcomed. However, its execution should be undertaken with caution, transparency and fairness bearing in mind that equality must always prevail. The proposal to have women prisoners should be considered based on the facts presented but not at the total disregard of the plight of male prisoners who are convicts of similar low-level offenses. A balancing act should be designed for that matter.
Law, Vikki. Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2012. Print.
Talvi, Silja J. A. Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.s. Prison System. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2007. Print.
The Editorial Board. Women Behind Bars. New York Times. 2015. Web. 2nd Dec. 2015.