Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Incarcerating Women - Or Not

This Washington Post Op-Ed suggests that we should not incarcerate women for anything. Ignore for a moment the logical errors in the essay. (Look, if I can resist taking the bait, so can you.) Fish, barrel, not worth your time. But buried in the crap is the fair point that what we are doing isn't working very well.  Women commit different types of crimes than men, and it might well be that something else would work better.  A new solution wouldn't have to work very well at all to be better.  Rather like the joke about the guy who tells his friend while on safari "I don't have to outrun the lion.  I just have to outrun you."


Christopher B said...

This looks to fit the Ann Althouse observation that reporting men and women are different is acceptable so long as it's a net positive for women.

Retriever said...

The article is a load of crap. Children matter too. I used to serve as a chaplain to children who had been abused, pimped, starved, locked up and otherwise mistreated by mothers who were whores, drug addicts, alcoholics, abused themselves, had had kids by multiple different men out of wedlock, etc. While the kids mostly still loved and missed their mothers, they had been incredibly damaged by them. Crack babies. Fetal alcohol syndrome. Shaken babies. Starved. Sexually abused by mothers' boyfriends. Brutal discipline.

A child is not property. But a gift from God to be cherished and taken care of ahead of one's own (ie: The parent's) welfare. In many cases the kids I worked with did better under the care of the nuns and child care workers. This may seem to go against my usual championing of parents' rights again faceless bureaucracies. I am, for example, usually pro-home schooling. But when you are talking about female criminals you have to ask are they fit parents? Is there a stable, law abiding father in the picture?

Also, the law of unintended consequences: If moms get a free pass, criminal females, whores and junkies will have kids just to escape the consequences of illegal activity. Pity their kids.

We actually need to go back to the days of well run orphanages. They were worse than loving two parent homes, but they are better than chaotic lives w drug-dealing, hooking moms. Children need structure and regular meals at least as much as emotional protestations of love. I know. I grew up with an insanely abusive tho non-criminal bipolar mom. Never happier than when she was locked up in a hospital and a strict nanny fed us, gave us clean clothes, gave us our childhood back...

I used to nearly puke as I heard kids at the chip welfare agency I served, kids with weals still visible talk about how "my mama is always there for me..." (and think, but not say "yeah, with a lead pipe")

I am NOT a PC liberal. I'm a conservative mom of 3. The nuns I worked w were passionately pro preserving family ties. But what we saw was horrible: Some people do such awful things that they set an awful example to kids and can't be trusted around them. I'm not arguing for Big Brother, but i think that what we should actually be doing is improving services for the kids of incarcerated women. So the poor cherubs don't suffer for the sins of their mothers.

james said...

If I parse the idea correctly, prison has three functions:
1) punishment
2) opportunity for repentance and reform
3) putting dangerous people where they can't hurt most of the rest of us

I think we all agree that prison is pretty much a failure at function 2. I think some things might be tried with minor offenders before they get to the point of prison--men (boys, usually) as well as women. I’ve suggested putting first offense teenagers in stocks in the middle of the mall. Maybe there are other things that could be tried other than classic prison; "GoPro" 24/7 sorts of things.

I gather that Pope Francis doesn't quite understand the third function, since he came out against both capital punishment and life imprisonment. You need to have one or the other, because transportation to Australia isn't an option anymore. Solitary is pretty cruel, so I tend to the side of having mercy on the other inmates and executing the dangerous offenders. That includes women too.

I wonder if there's a seesaw here. If I read the English culture right, some of the harsher laws and customs came from an era when crime and hooking and drug (alcohol) use were terribly high. One could argue that they worked, by and large (something certainly did--probably in combination with religious revival), and that the laws were felt to be over-the-top in the new environment (by Pharaohs who knew not Joseph) and therefore were relaxed, and that culture has since gotten nastier--possibly as a result.

I thought DCFS's reason for existence was taking care of the problems Retriever wrote about, but if they aren't, it wouldn't be the first time organizations focused on easy rather than important targets.

I don't know what the orphanage world is like in the US today. Googling turned up 1 in Chicago, which seems like way too few--I probably missed something. But to make orphanages more available you have to change rules about orphanages and change out the judges who do the assigning.

RonF said...

I would say that the incarceration of a lot of men doesn't work. I personally would tend to put convicted criminals to work on public works projects. Work them hard, physically, at least 8 hours a day, and shut up the unions that would object - we have a lot of infrastructure projects that could use a lot of manual labor. No non-violent criminal should be locked up - unless they defy attempts to punish them without doing so.