Tuesday, January 03, 2006

P is for Prison

Happy New Year!

For your interest and amusement/horror, I present:

"Women In Prison" - no, this is NOT an episode of Jerry Springer, it is a report of the US Dept of Justice, penned in 1991.

The report notes with concern how the number of women in prison was increasing at a shocking rate - faster than the rate for men:

Across the Nation the number of women in prison has grown at a faster rate than that of men. In a year-to-year comparison, the percentage of women is now the highest it has ever been, beginning with the first annual collection of prison statistics in 1926.

Frightening, and one would think, evidence of a bias against women, but the report doesn't go there. It is, to the degree possible, I think, a dry and unhysterical accounting of facts.

The explanation for the relatively rapid increase in female incarcerations, although not made excessively clear, was simple - laws were tightened down a bit, and people started being treated ever so slightly more equally with respect to their gender;

The growth in the number of male and female prisoners is also reflected in the overall rate of incarceration - defined as the number of sentenced prisoners (those sentenced to more than 1 year) per 100,000 residents. From 1980 to 1989 the incarceration rate nearly doubled, from 146 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 residents to 283 sentenced prisoners per 100,000. During this period the rate for women increased by 158%, from 12 to 31 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 female residents; the rate for men increased by 91%, from 287 to 549 per 100,000 male residents.

But bias is not dead. The general anti-male bias we ignore every day is omnipresent. Note that 0.549% of the male prison residents are 'Incarcerated', compared to 0.031% of the female prison residents.

Do we really think that men are SEVENTEEN TIMES more criminal than women, in general?

Or do we think that the courts are seventeen times less likely to incarcerate a woman?

-I think the latter.

Or take a look at these numbers from the report:

The number of women under the jurisdiction of State and Federal prison authorities at yearend 1989 reached a record 40,556. Although the female inmate population had grown by more than 27,000 since 1980, an increase of over 200%, females still comprised a relatively small segment of the prison population - 5.7% at yearend 1989.

So it wasn't just in doleing out the over-1-year sentences that women were treated much more lightly, it was in jail time in general. The pecentage bias is almost exactly the same, which one would probably expect from a bias that operates independently of fact (Women are 5.3% of the 'incarcerated' population). To be fair, if men are in fact generally 17 times more criminal than women, you would expect to see these kind of percentages too.

Some other interesting bits:

- An estimated 41% of the female inmates in 1986 were in prison for a violent offense, compared to 49% in 1979. Nearly half of the women in prison for a violent crime in 1986 were serving time for a homicide.

- An estimated 89% of the women in State prisons in 1986 had a current conviction for a violent crime or an earlier sentence to probation or incarceration for any offense.- Women released from State prison in 1986 had served an average of 16months. Those convicted of a violent offense had served an average of 27 months in prison, about twice as long as released property offenders (13 months) and drug offenders (14 months).- More than a third of the women serving time for a violent crime had victimized a relative or intimate; about a fourth of the women in prison for violence were convicted of the homicide of a relative or intimate.

A significant percentage of the women in prison were in prison for violent crimes against their own families. THERE IS NO SIMILAR STUDY OF MEN IN PRISON, but from a study of violent prisoners we get a little more clarity:

Almost one-half of the women in prison for violent crimes were serving time for homicide, and half of these (26 percent of all violent female inmates) had killed a relative or intimate, according to the survey report, "Violent State Prisoners and Their Victims."

The study of violent prisoners goes on to indicate that men are much more likely to commit their crimes against strangers. "Almost 60 percent of the male violent offenders had committed their offenses against strangers, compared to 37 percent of the violent females." The violence of women (when reported, prosecuted, and resulting in conviction) is much more often directed towards the family. The "Women in Prison" study clarifies this even further: "While less than 6% of males were serving a sentence for the homicide of a relative or intimate, more than 25% of female violent offenders had killed a family member, ex-spouse, or other intimate."

The suspicion I am holding is that the courts are somewhat less tolerant of violent women who attack their families than we are of other female criminals.

Some evidence on this topic is found in the "State Court Sentencing of Convicted Felons -- Statistical tables":


Doing a little quick math you can compare the relative sentence length male against female for offences overall, and for each offence.


Total Time Sentenced


Offense % of Male
All offenses 59%
Violent offenses 64%
Murder 17%
Sexual assault 220%
Robbery 50%
Aggravted assault 145%
Other violent 71%
Property offenses 66%
Burglary 62%
Larceny 71%
Fraud 77%
Drug offenses 71%
Possession 70%
Trafficking 75%
Weapon offenses 69%
Other offenses 73%

So, if you automatically presume that women are treated more lightly than men by the courts, well, on average, you are right. On average, women receive less than 60% of the overall sentences recieved by men for the same crimes. But some of the items in particular are suprisingly skewed. For Murder, women are sentenced to 17% of the sentence length of men. So I was wrong in presuming that women are treated more harshly when they murder. In fact they are treated with an outrageous deference. On the other hand, the court seems to treat women sexual offenders worse than men, with sentences on average that are twice as long. Here is where the tolerance of the court break down.

If the court generally treated women the same with respect to their crimes - giving them about 60% of the sentence a man would get, why would these two specific areas be skewed, sexual abuse being treated more harshly, and murder so much less harshly?

We already have the answer, it is staring us in the face: Violent women tend to harm their own families, not others. They tend to murder their husbands (much more often then their kids), and the well documented bias of the courts against men leads to these crimes being treated with kid-gloves. Women's sexual abuse tends to be against their children, and these are victims that the court is capable of recognising.

So husband-killers get treated with kid gloves, so what? How often does this happen? Well again, according to this domestic violence statistics webpage, citing "Violent State Prisoners and their Victims" again, of first time women offenders in state prisons for homicide, 65% killed an ex-spouse, and 23% had killed a spouse.

So in total, 88% of women in state prison for homicide killed their spouse or ex-spouse!

-Why are female murderers treated with kid-gloves? they killed men.
This is the crime that is being sentenced at 17% of the amount of time a man would get for a similar crime.

-As far as 'Justice' goes, I am still disgusted.


Happy New Year and Hope for Freedom and Equality!

-M

The Bureau of Justice Statistics is Here.
A list of of some paper-based USDOJ Publications is Here.
A great source of online abstracts and data relating to prisons is Here.

4 Comments:

Blogger One man said...

"On the other hand, the court seems to treat women sexual offenders worse than men, with sentences on average that are twice as long."

I don't think so. Check out Masculitse for greater detail. Women sex offenders getting off worse...lol. Not were I come from.

1/03/2006 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger MisAnDrope said...

Bear in mind that the 'worse treatment' I cite is a differential in terms of length of sentence. Number of convictions may tell a different story about who is usually believed. It may be that by the time a woman gets convicted of an abuse-crime they are beyond any mitigating factors - perhaps those who are finally convicted are beyond sympathy.

1/04/2006 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger One man said...

Check out Silly Seattles "vagina warriors" collection. These women got a slap on the wrist by comparison and Letourneau? She made over a million dollars as a pedophile and she only got 7 years for her SECOND rape of the SAME boy, one that she had a court order against making contact with. A man in her shoes would never be released.

1/04/2006 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger One man said...

Don't get me wrong...I love the post. Like you said in your comment, the stats might be affected by other things.

It seems counter intuitive when placed next to cases like Pamela Turner and Mary Kay Letourneau. I am interested to know more of the details of this discrepancy.

1/04/2006 02:34:00 PM  

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