Before the 1980s, the correction paradigm was that women fit in the mainstream correction system. However, the invention of gender-specific interventions by Miller’s (1986) relational-cultural theory led to a change in the approach for the incarceration of women in many countries. For instance, gender-specific programming for incarcerated females advocates for correction systems designed to meet female issues. Some of those gender-specific issues include violence and assault, substance abuse, sexual and reproductive health, and pregnancy and families
Violence and Assault
Women who have a record of past violence and abuse are identified in the correction system to give them specialized treatment. The primary concern for gender-specific prison systems is to create an environment that is conducive for female inmates to disclose their lived experiences in violence and assault. Such prisons have trained staff who recognize indicators of possible domestic abuse or social violence and respond appropriately. While this attention is not given to male inmates, there is statistical evidence that female inmates deserve than their counterparts. For instance, WHO reports that more than half of female inmates suffered domestic violence, and a third of female inmates are victims of sexual violence (“Sexual Violence” 149). However, mainstream prison systems or female prisons that do not recognize the implications of such data tend to worsen the trauma experienced by female inmates. For instance, while most inmates associated with violence are men, women tend to have a higher rate of desperate disciplinary cases (“Prisons for Women” par 12). Besides the reasons for frequent disciplinary actions in such setting are often petty (“Prisons for Women” par 12). Hence, female inmates’ mental health deteriorates, their physical wellbeing reduces, and consequently, the chances for reoffending increases. In that view, violence and abuse in lived experiences for female inmates is a critical gender-specific issue which ought to prevent negative implications of trauma and reoffending.
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Programs related to substance abuse in a prison setting ought to be comprehensive through gender responsiveness. Precisely, prisons should understand the realities of lived experiences for women involved in substance abuse. Such a system understands the specific need for addicted inmates to help them through the recovery process. Gender specificity, in this case, encompasses aspects of the design and delivery of substance abuse recovery programs. For instance, such systems should be responsive to the needs of female inmates regarding the accessibility of critical medication and services, staffing, and the availability of the program (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 26). Besides, such a gender-specific program gives special attention to prenatal care, parenting skills, family contact, and promote the mental health of inmates.
Substance abuse in a gender-specific lens is critical since both male and female inmates respond differently to issue. For instance, female substance abusers may require special attention during treatment since they experience more severe emotional distress and psychosomatic issues than their male counterparts (“Prisons for Women” par 5). Also, a study on the US female substance abuse inmates has shown that gender-responsive substance abuse treatment is more likely to result to better mental health improvement rate, wellbeing and reduced rate of reoffending (Messina et al. 105). Thus, substance abuse is a critical area in a prison setting that requires a special approach in gender-specific methodologies.
Sexual and Reproductive Health
Healthcare of inmates concerning their sexual and reproductive health is paramount. Prisons ought to understand the sexuality of inmates during the entry period so that they may identify inmates requiring special needs. Some details looked for include sexual inclination, sexual activity, pregnancy, and menstrual cycles. Precisely, a professional ought to carry out a health assessment as per the relevant guidelines. For instance, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends the health screening of inmates to identify the risk of sexually transmitted infections, opportunities for training and education, and primary or emergency healthcare (Gabriel et al. 27). That way, the Bloom and Covington have insisted that the criminal justice system ought to develop a gender and culture-sensitive problem identification and resolution strategy for better outcomes concerning the wellbeing of inmates (“Prisons for Women” par 12). That way, the correction tools used in prisons are less likely to harm the inmates sexual and reproductive health. For instance, the issues around LGBT are critical in the current mainstream society. There are multiple cases reported on discrimination, abuse, and bullying of people identified as LGBTs. Hence, gender-specific programs are viable intervention framework to protect LGBT inmates from the discrimination, abuse, and bullying and ensure smooth correction. In that light, sexual and reproductive health is a critical gender-specific issue, requiring a gender-sensitive approach.
Pregnancy and families
Pregnancy and family are critical issues in the criminal justice system. Notably, inmates do not shed their right to healthy pre and postnatal care when in prisons. Therefore, prisons should be positioned to provide the necessary primary and critical care to pregnant inmates. For instance, the prison should facilitate special peer support for pregnant mothers and cancelling services. Often, the inmate and the child are separated so that the mother may continue service the sentence, which is mostly depressing. Therefore, gender-specific programs appreciate that women have specific needs that require attention, regarding pregnancy and separating from their families. Hence, a prison should provide a safe environment, where a female inmate would have minimal adverse implications such as suicide, due to trauma of separation from their families.
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Family separation is mostly a gendered scenario which different implication from one individual to another. A study has found that female inmates are particularly most affected by separation from families (“Prisons for Women” par 2). This arises from the observation that most female inmates are mothers. Besides, the separation of female inmates leads to poor family relationships. According to a study in the US, female inmates often lose contact with their children due to systems put in place by correction program and child welfare agencies (“Prisons for Women” par 2). The aftermath of such separation is trauma and emotional reactions such as aggression and anxiety. Hence, prisons ought to facilitate the meeting of possible gender-specific needs since results of family separation are inarguably not suitable for any individual to experience.
To sum up, some critical gender-specific issues include violence and abuse, substance abuse, sexual and reproductive health, and pregnancy and families. Most female inmates are victims of violence hence needs special attention to reduce the chances of reoffending. There are special gendered needs for inmates or recovering from substance abuse. Similarly, some sexual needs for male and female inmates are different and require special attention. Lastly, pregnancy and family relationships are critical as they impact different genders differently.
“Prisons for Women”. “Prisons: Prisons For Women – Problems And Unmet Needs In The Contemporary Women’s Prison”. Law.Jrank.Org, 2020, https://law.jrank.org/pages/1805/Prisons-Prisons-Women-Problems-unmet-needs-in-contemporary-women-s-prison.html.
“Sexual Violence”. “Sexual Violence”. Who.Int, https://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/global_campaign/en/chap6.pdf
Gabriel, G et al. “Prevalence Of Chlamydia Trachomatis And Associated Risk Factors In Women Inmates Admitted To A Youth Offenders Institute In The UK”. International Journal Of STD & AIDS, vol 19, no. 1, 2008, pp. 26-29. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1258/ijsa.2007.007160. Accessed 7 June 2020.
Messina, Nena et al. “A Randomized Experimental Study Of Gender-Responsive Substance Abuse Treatment For Women In Prison”. Journal Of Substance Abuse Treatment, vol 38, no. 2, 2010, pp. 97-107. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2009.09.004. Accessed 7 June 2020.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Substance Abuse Treatment And Care For Women: Case Studies And Lessons Learned. New York, 2004, https://www.unodc.org/docs/treatment/Toolkits/Women_Treatment_Case_Studies_E.pdf. Accessed 7 June 2020.