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Deceptions and Realities of Life in Women's Prisons

NCJ Number
Prison Journal Volume: 64 Issue: 1 Dated: (Spring/Summer 1984) Pages: 45-56
I L Moyer
Date Published
12 pages
While women's prisons may appear to provide a peaceful environment and freedom of interaction, women prisoners do experience much degradation, regimentation, and control. Sex-role stereotyping has led to inadequate vocational programs for female prisoners.
Research studies indicate that although women's prisons may not have the physical appearance of strong control and surveillance, regimentation is pervasive and rehabilitation programs poor. While 19th century middle-class female reformers were able to save most women from prison life behind bars and in cell blocks, the reformers reinforced traditional sex-role stereotypes of women as dependent children that have been detrimental to female offenders. Studies suggest that women prisoners experience regimentation and control and have to endure demeaning degradation ceremonies. Moreover, sex-role stereotypes have viewed women prisoners as disobedient 'girls' in need of training to fill traditional roles as obedient, dutiful housewives and mothers. Most women prisoners are, however, the sole support of themselves and their children. While it may be justifiable to prepare women prisoners for traditional roles, today's prisons must also provide female offenders with meaningful vocational training so they can become economically independent and self-supporting members of society. Administrators of women's prisons must reexamine their perceptions of the inmates' physical surroundings and their vocational and economic needs. The needs of women's prisoners should be reevaluated in terms of the actual demands of the 20th century. There must be systematic planning, program development, and resource allocation. Two footnotes and 16 references are supplied.