Women Incarcerated

Series Titles • The History of Punishment and Imprisonment • Juveniles Growing Up in Prison • Political Prisoners • Prison Alternatives and Rehabilitation • Prison Conditions Around the World • The Treatment of Prisoners and Prison Conditions • The True Cost of Prisons • Unequal Justice • Women Incarcerated

Women Incarcerated By Joan Esherick

Foreword by Larry E. Sullivan, PhD, Associate Dean, John Jay College of Criminal Justice


Mason Crest 450 Parkway Drive, Suite D

Broomall, PA 19008 www.masoncrest.com

Copyright © 2018 by Mason Crest, an imprint of National Highlights, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Printed and bound in the United States of America.

First printing 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Series ISBN: 978-1-4222-3781-6 Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4222-3790-8 ebook ISBN: 978-1-4222-8005-8

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Esherick, Joan, author. Title: Women incarcerated / by Joan Esherick ; foreword by Larry E. Sullivan,   PhD, Associate Dean, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Other titles: Women in prison Description: Broomall, PA : Mason Crest, [2018] | Series: The prison system |   Includes index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016054113| ISBN 9781422237908 (hardback) | ISBN   9781422237816 (series) | ISBN 9781422280058 (ebook) Subjects:  LCSH: Women prisoners--Juvenile literature. Classification: LCC HV8738 .E84 2018 | DDC 365/.43--dc23

Developed and Produced by Print Matters Productions, Inc. (www.printmattersinc.com)

Cover and Interior Design : Tom Carling, Carling Design Additional Text: Brian Boone

QR CODES AND LINKS TO THIRD PARTY CONTENT You may gain access to certain third party content (“Third Party Sites”) by scanning and using the QR Codes that appear in this publication (the “QR Codes”). We do not operate or control in any respect any information, products or services on such Third Party Sites linked to by us via the QR Codes included in this publication, and we assume no respon- sibility for any materials you may access using the QR Codes. Your use of the QR Codes may be subject to terms, limitations, or restrictions set forth in the applicable terms of use or otherwise established by the owners of the Third Party Sites. Our linking to such Third Party Sites via the QR Codes does not imply an endorsement or sponsorship of such Third Party Sites, or the information, products or services offered on or through the Third Party Sites, nor does it imply an endorsement or sponsorship of this publication by the owners of such Third Party Sites.


Words to understand: These words with their easy-to-understand definitions will increase the reader’s understanding of the text while building vocabulary skills. Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news cover- age, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments and much more! Text-dependent Questions: These questions send the reader back to the text for more careful attention to the evidence presented there. Research projects: Readers are pointed toward areas of further inquiry connected to each chapter. Suggestions are provided for projects that encourage deeper research and analysis. Series glossary of key terms: This back-of-the-book glossary contains terminology used throughout this series. Words found here increase readers’ ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field. They Leave Behind...........................................................45 6 Imprisoned Women around the World..........................57 7 Helping Women Inmates.................................................65 Series Glossary ....................................................................... 73 Further Resources .................................................................... 76 Index ....................................................................................... 78 About the Author, Series Consultant, and Picture Credits ........... 80 Foreword by Larry E. Sullivan, PhD ............................................. 6 1 Women and Crime.............................................................. 9 2 Life in a Women’s Prison.................................................19 3 Special Issues for Incarcerated Women.......................29 4 Safe Behind Bars?...........................................................37 5 Incarcerated Women and the Families

Foreword Prisons have a long history, one that began with the idea of evil, guilt, and atonement. In fact, the motto of one of the first prison reform organizations was “Sin no more.” Placing offenders in prison was, for most of the history of prison systems, a ritual for redemption through incarceration; hence the language of punishment takes on a very religious cast. The word penitentiary itself comes from the concept of penance, or self-punishment to make up for a past wrong. When we discuss prisons, we are dealing not only with the law, but with very strong emotions and reactions to acts that range fromminor crimes, or misdemeanors, to major crimes, or felonies, such as murder and rape. Prisons also reflect the level of the civilizing process throughwhich a culture travels, and it tells us much about how we treat our fellow human beings. The 19th-century Russian au- thor Fyodor Dostoyevsky, whowas a political prisoner, remarked, “The degree of civilization in a society can be measured by observing its prisoners.” Similarly, Winston Churchill, the British primeminister duringWorldWar II, said that the “treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of civilization of any country.” For much of the history of the American prison, we tried to rehabilitate or modify the criminal behavior of offenders through a variety of treatment programs. In the last quarter of the 20th century, politicians and citizens alike realized that this attempt had failed, and they began passing stricter laws, imprisoning people for longer terms, and building more prisons. This movement has taken a great toll on society. Beginning in the 1970s federal and state governments passed mandatory minimum sentencing laws, stricter habitual offender legislation, and other “tough on crime” laws that have led today to the incarceration in prisons and jails of approximately 2.3 million people, or an imprisonment rate of 720 per 100,000 people, the highest recorded level in the world. This has led to the overcrowding of prisons, worse living conditions, fewer educational programs, and severe budgetaryproblems. Imprisonment carries a significant social cost since it splits families and contributes to a cycle of crime, violence, drug addiction, and poverty. The Federal Sentencing ReformAct of 1984 created a grid of offenses and crime categories for sentencing that disallowedmitigating circumstances. This grid was meant to prevent disparate sentences for similar crimes. The governmentmade these guidelinesmandatory, thereby takingmost discretionary sentencing out of the hands of judges who previously could give a wider range of sentences, such as one year to life, and allow for some type of rehabilitation. The unintended consequences of this legislative reform in sentencing was the doubling of the number of incarcerated people in the United States. Combined with the harsh sentences on drug offenders, almost half of the prisoners in the federal system are narcotics offenders, both violent and nonviolent, traffickers and users. States followed suit in enacting the harsh guidelines of the federal government in sentencing patterns. “Life without parole” laws and the changes in parole and probation practices led to even more offenders behind bars. Following the increase in the number of incarcerated offenders, more and more prisons were built with the aid of federal funds and filled to the brim with both violent and nonviolent offenders. In addition,


the prison System

many states handed over penal custody to the new private for-profit prisons that stemmed from mass incarceration. In the 21st century officials, politicians, and the public began to realize that such drastic laws wrought much harm to society. With the spread of long-term imprisonment, those who had spent decades in prison were unemployable after release. Their criminal histories followed them and made it difficult if not impossible to find gainful employment. Therefore, they entered the criminal world continually and thus sped up the vicious cycle of crime- imprisonment-release-crime-punishment. America was reaching the tipping point; some- thing had to give. In response to this growing trend of harsh sentencing, for example, the Supreme Court led the way between 2005 and 2016 with decisions banning the death penalty for juveniles (Roper v. Simmons, U.S. 551 [2005]), life sentence without parole for juveniles not convicted of homicide (Graham v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2011 [2010]); and life without parole for juveniles (Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbes 132 S. Ct. 2455 [2012] and Montgomery v. Louisiana 135 S.Ct. 1729 [2015]). Behavioral psychologists and other officials do not consider juveniles capable of making fully formed decisions, and the Supreme Court has recognized the devel- opmental differences that excuses full individual responsibility and applies to their actions the philosophic principle of just deserts.Many states (90 percent of prisoners are under state, not federal jurisdiction) are beginning to take action by reducing harshmandatory sentences for adults. Most states, for example, have gone toward the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, with lighter penalties for possession of the drug. Sincemost prisoners in state institutions are violent, however, contemporary America is caught in a dilemma withwhich many academics and governmental policy makers are aggressively grappling. All these are reasons why this series on the prison system is extremely important for understanding the history and culture of the United States. Readers will learn all facets of punishment: its history; the attempts to rehabilitate offenders; the increasing number of women and juveniles inprison; the inequality of sentencing among the races; attempts to find alternatives to incarceration; the high cost, both economically andmorally, of imprisonment; and other equally important issues. These books teach us the importance of understanding that the prison system affects more people in the United States than any institution, other than our schools.

Larry E. Sullivan, PhD Associate Dean Chief Librarian John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor of Criminal Justice Graduate School and University Center City University of New York


Women Incarcerated

Women and


Words to Understand

The women whose stories are described here faced different situations, yet they have this in common: in every case, circumstances drove these women to make choices and take actions that would greatly and negatively impact them for the rest of their lives. They Were “Better Off Dead,” She Said Jeanne Anne Wright dropped out of high school when she discovered she was pregnant. This pregnancy would result in the first of four children: three by one man, the fourth by another. Neither father supported Jeanne Anne, and she went on welfare and signed up for food stamps. The stress of poverty and single parenting proved too much for Jeanne to bear. The 25-year-old tookher children toNewJersey’sCooperRiver,where shewaited for each child to fall asleep—and then dropped them into the river’s swift current. All four drowned. Jeanne Anne pleaded guilty to the four murders, explaining that she felt her children were “better off dead.” Though diagnosed with chronic Asylum: Protection from arrest and extradition. Borderline personality disorder: A psychological condition characterized by emotional instability and self-destructive, manipulative, and erratic behavior. Exploitation: The unfair treatment or use of somebody or someone for personal gain. Parole: The early release of a prisoner with specified requirements, such as the need to report to authorities for a specified period.

A plethora of crimes can land any individual behind bars. Murder, drug possession or trafficking, and grand larceny are only a few examples. Women behind bars experience many of the same conditions that men do.


Women Incarcerated

depression and borderline personality disorder , she received four terms of life imprisonment for her crimes. Accomplice to Murder Marlene Jones’s parents, who were well off and stable when Marlene was young, had adopted their daughter when she was only a day old. At age 10, she learned that she had been adopted, and by the time she was 14, Marlene’s home life had become volatile and unstable. The teenager’s grades dropped; she started shoplift- ing; she popped pills to handle the stress. These behaviors led to more dangerous ones: black magic rituals, promiscuous sex, tripping on LSD, becoming a “High Priestess of the Satanic Church.” At 15, Marlene was arrested for grand larceny (the result of a $6,000 shoplifting spree), drug possession, andweapons possession. WhenMarlene’s adoptivemother threatened to send the troubled teen to a juvenile detention center, Marlene decided then and there to kill her. Twomonths later, atMarlene’s prompting,Marlene’s boyfriend bludgeonedher adoptivemother todeathwithahammer and stabbedherwithakitchenknife.When Marlene’s father walked in on the grisly act, her boyfriend shot him four times in the chest. After watching her parents die, Marlene, then 16 years old, left the scene with her boyfriend, visited friends, ate out, and went to the movies. Early the next morning, the teen murderers drove the two mutilated bodies to an open fire pit in a rural area outside of town, doused the corpses in gasoline, and set them on fire. Not All Incarceration Facilities Are the Same The terms jail, prison, and detention center have different meanings. Generally here’s how they differ: • A jail is a smaller facility run by the county, town, or local government located nearest to the place of the arrest or crime that is designed to hold people for shorter periods of time (usually less than a year). • A prison is a larger, more secure facility run by state, provincial (in Can- ada), or federal governments and is designed to hold convicted crimi- nals, including violent offenders, for longer periods of time. • A detention center is where people awaiting trial can be detained; it is also a place where youth, nonviolent offenders, or those with short sentences can serve their time.

Aweek later, after a coworker became concernedoverMarlene’s father’s absence from work, police discovered the crime. Three days after that, Marlene confessed and took police to the bodies. Prosecutors charged Marlene and her boyfriend with two counts of first-degree murder.


the prison System

Marlene’s boyfriend, whowas tried as an adult, was found guilty and sentenced to death in the gas chamber (a sentence that was later changed to life in prison). Marlene, whom the judge said “did encourage, instigate, aide, abet and act as ac- complice in the homicides of her parents,” was tried as a juvenile, found guilty, and sentenced to confinement at the California Youth Authority from which she would be released on her 21st birthday. She served less than 4 years. Escape from Mutilation to Hell Located inwesternAfrica, FauziyaKasinga’s home country of Togo supported the ancient practice of female genital mutilation—a coming-of-age ritual in which a girl’s clitoris and labia are surgically removed, and her vagina is sewn nearly shut to protect her chastity until marriage. Fauziya hoped to escape this painful, often life-threatening rite, so she fled to the United States and sought political asylum . Until immigration officials could decide her fate, the then 17-year-old (who had committed no crimes) was sent to a detention facility—a place where offi- cials could keep her in custody until her immigration hearing with U.S. officials could be arranged. While held in detention, she faced abuse at the hands of her guards, worse than anything she’d endured in her own country: she endured regular beatings and was forced to wear chains around her ankles and wrists. Guards made her stand naked for long periods of time just to humiliate her, and to add to her embarrassment, guards refused to provide sanitary napkins when she needed them. A riot in the detention center where she was being held initiated Fauziya’s transfer to a county prison in Pennsylvania. Though the guards at this facility treated her well, officials housed her with inmates who had been convicted of crimes, some of which were violent. One inmate walked into Fauziya’s cell and issued this ultimatum: “You either giveme your apple [fresh fruit is rare in prison] or you sleep with me.” Fauziya had never heard of homosexual behavior between women before, let alone been threatened with it. She was terrified. She surrendered her prized fruit to defuse the tension with the other inmate, who then left her alone.

Top Crimes Committed by Women

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics lists the top crimes committed by incarcerated women in the United States: 1. Violent crimes 2. Property felonies (burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, fraud, forgery, embezzlement)

3. Drug felonies (trafficking, possession) 4. Other nonviolent felonies not listed above


Women Incarcerated

The U.S. government eventually granted Fauziya’s request for asylum and re- leased her. Fauziya Kasinga currently works as an advocate for immigrants held in U.S. detention centers and has testified before Congress about her experiences. Jeanne Anne, Marlene, and Fauziya were once ordinary girls in ordinary families that faced an array of troubles, as most families do. Their differing back- grounds, circumstances, and behaviors resulted in different life outcomes. During their teens and young adulthood, these women dealt with their circumstances in various ways: two committed crimes, and one fled her homeland. All three ended up behind bars. Today, one remains in prison (Jeane AnneWright), one left prison after 4 years and became a heroin addict who prostituted herself to support her addiction (Marlene Jones), and one became a widely recognized advocate for de- tained women seeking asylum in the United States (Fauziya Kasinga). These cases, documented in detail in Michael Newton’s Bad Girls Do It: An En- cyclopedia of Female Murderers and a Stop Prisoner Rape report titled No Refuge Here: AFirst Look at Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention, illustrate the diversity of women who commit crimes or end up behind bars and the complexity of issues that sends them there. Mental illness, physical abuse, depression, substance abuse, fear, gang or cult affiliations, destructive relationships, poverty, cultural norms or expectations, low self-esteem, overwhelming stress, desperation—any of these and more can be found lurking in the histories of America’s incarcerated women. Who Are the Women behind Bars? Because such varying issues send women to prison, many kinds of women from many different backgrounds make up prison populations today. Findings by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics confirm the complexity of these populations. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 1.2 million women—almost 1 percent of the U.S. population—live under correctional supervision (either incarcerated or on supervised release). Slightly over half of all incarcerated women in the United States are under the age of 40. Twenty-five percent commit- ted drug-related offenses that landed them behind bars. Even more committed property offenses. Many didn’t have jobs at the time of their arrests, and nearly two-thirds did not complete high school. If nonviolent drug and property offenses provide the most common reasons U.S. women end up in jail, violent offenses come next. Combined, these categories account for more than 90 percent of all female inmates. Physical and Sexual Abuse: An Experience in Common One characteristic common to women incarcerated in the United States is a his- tory of victimization . Of all the circumstances behind North American women ending up in jails, detention centers, or prisons, the most common is physical or sexual abuse. Consider this case study. To protect her identity, we will call this offender Jane.


the prison System

Jane’s stepfather routinely abused her during her childhood and adolescence. She also endured repeated molestations by other family and nonfamily members. The damage she suffered at the hands of her abusers led Jane to develop what one psychologist referred to as “severe assertive and relationship deficits.” To deal with her abuse, Jane turned to alcohol. Jane endedup in a common-lawmarriage (a long-termcohabitation recognized in some jurisdictions as a marriage, though no ceremony was performed) to an- other abuser. With Jane’s full knowledge and consent, her common-law husband repeatedlymolested Jane’s young daughter by another man. This abuse lasted six years and culminated in the girl’s rape when she was in her early teens. When Jane’s daughter protested, Jane forced the teen to have sexual relations with her stepfather by threatening to hit or punch the girl or take away her privileges if she did not comply. When her daughter refused or complained, Jane beat her. Jane’s daughter’s scars and bruises testified that she often refused. Finally, the ultimate victim in this tragedy, Jane’s daughter, called the police after her step- father raped her. The Courts convicted Jane of a federal offense (sexual exploitation of a mi- nor) and sentenced her to three years in prison. When the courts granted Jane full parole , it was with the stipulations that she have no contact with her daughter, with her former common-law husband, and with any children under 16 years of age. She also had to agree to counseling. Jane is nowcoming to termswithher past abuse and victimization. Counseling has helped Jane understand why she, an abuse victim, became the co-abuser of her daughter. Jane’s alcoholism is being treated and is currently under control, and her once-estranged daughter wants to rebuild their damaged relationship. In this case, Jane’s abusive past damagedher emotionally and ledher to become involved in unhealthy relationships, substance abuse, and criminal activity, all of which put her behind bars. She is not alone. Women in Prison and Emotional Health Issues A Bureau of Justice Statistics Report, Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates , reported that 73 percent of incarcerated women suffer from some kind of mental health or emotional health issue. Around 80 percent have a history of abusing drugs or alcohol. According to the U.S. Coalition for Juvenile Justice, up to 75 percent of girls in the juvenile court system in the United States have been physically or sexually abused. Though girls make up only 29 percent of the juvenile court population, they account for nearly 60 percent of juvenile arrests for running away. Dr. H. C. Davis, the supervisor of education at the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, OK, describes a “typical” female offender as someone whose history includes substance abuse, low self-esteem, and sexual abuse. Jane, whose offenses were described above, fits this profile almost perfectly: she had been physically and sexually abused before the time of her offenses, she knew her abusers, she developed an addiction to alcohol, and she had a poor self-image.


Women Incarcerated

Depression can have a lasting effect, especially within the confines of the prison system. Often, mental health issues go unnoticed, but prisons are working to help those in need.

Most female offenders in the United States fit Dr. Davis’s profile, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics: • Over 55 percent of female jail inmates used alcohol regularly at the time of their offenses. • Nearly 40 percent of female jail inmates abused drugs at the time of their offenses. • Over half of all jail inmates grew up in single-parent homes. • Over 60 percent of female jail inmates had been physically or sexually abused. • Of these, over 90 percent knew their abusers.

Fast Facts: Female Inmates in The United States

• Women make up 7 percent of all inmates in U.S. jails. • Women make up 14 percent of all violent offenders in the United States. • Twenty-five percent of female prisoners are serving time for drug offenses. • About 49 percent of female inmates are white, and 22 percent are black. • Between 2010 and 2015, the female inmate population has risen by an annual rate of 3.4 percent.


the prison System

Made with FlippingBook Online newsletter