The court ruled on a 2009 case brought by seven inmates in two prisons who complained that each had to share a 97-square-foot cell with two other inmates. The men also said they did not have regular hot water or light.
The American prison system is also in need of immediate reform. We all need to work more diligently to spread awareness on this important issue.
America maintains one of the highest incarceration rates in the world : overshadowing such countries as Russia, Iran and Rwanda.
Uri L’Tzedek is an Jewish social justice organization that has petitioned Congress to pass legislation on prison reform.
African Americans are grossly overrepresented in U.S. prisons. This is mostly due to the War on Drugs, racial profiling, and underlining racist ideologies. The fact that there are more African Americans in the prison system today than there enslaved in 1850 suggests a Jim Crow system is in place. Women are quickly becoming more represented in U.S. prisons and at a faster rate than men. In some places, like Montana, Native American women are extremely overrepresented in the prison population. Revolutionary change must take place in the judicial system to ensure a humane, just, and fundamentally different method of practice succeeds our current system.
Angela Davis discusses the injustice of the prison system for women, outlining the intersections of race, class, and gender, in her essay “How Gender Structures the Prison System.” Prisons are gendered in a number of ways. Women who are convicted of crimes are more often treated for mental illness. Women are more likely to be sent to mental institutions that men (Davis 66). Medications for treating mental illness are more common in women’s prisons than men’s (Davis 66). Women’s prisons have traditionally been gendered. Quaker reformers led the charge to create separate prisons for women (Davis 68). Women were not subject to the same penalties as men because they were not viewed as capable of redemption in the same way as men. Men could earn back their rights but women did not have many of these rights in the first place and therefore “were not eligible to participate in the process of redemption” (Davis 70). Gendered forms of rehabilitation also took place. For women, rehabilitation focused on domesticity. It was believed that deviant women could be reformed though becoming good care-takers and preparing being stay-at-home mothers (Davis 71). However, African American and Native American women did not participate in this gendered form of rehabilitation in the same way. They were often segregated from white female prisoners and were more often sentenced to men’s prisons (Davis 72).
In her interview, Beth Ritchie states that the term male violence is more encompassing than domestic violence, it should also refer to the patriarchal justice system and violence committed by the state. She states that “[v]iolence has a symbolic meaning as well as a concrete meaning.” “Violence ruins lives” and not just individual lives but groups of people as well. The state practices in the criminal justice system are an example of male violence.
Ritchie refers to male violence as the “larger structural violence that is inherent in patriarchy which…can account for things like violence, can account for police brutality, can account for media images which are degrading, without reducing it to the kind of sexual violence and domestic violence that gets all the attention.” Media images are one form of violence. The media routinely and casually uses violent, degrading images and violent rhetoric to depict individuals diagnosed with a mental illness.
Violent images in the media have assisted the War on Drugs. Michelle Alexander writes that “[f]or more than a decade [after the declaration of the War on Drugs], black drug dealers and users would be regulars in newspaper stories and would saturate the evening TV news.” African Americans are severely overrepresented in the correctional system. More African Americans are under some form of correctional control today that were enslaved in 1850. A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than during slavery, in part due to the high percentage of black fathers in prison. The significant number of African Americans in prison today is the result of state violence and is another form of male violence.
Some disagree with attributing this gendered relationship with the state and the prison system. Some believe that this expanded view of what constitutes “violence” preserves a gendered ideology. If I understand Ritchie correctly, her intention is to articulate an abstracted gendering of violence. She is stating that the prison system is “male” in a historical sense. I believe it is acceptable to refer to the prison system as a male entity. Angela Davis writes that punishment in women’s prisons were changed to conform to a “separate but equal” system, making men’s prisons normative. This is also an act of violence. It is really too narrow to refer to it as male violence? If so, how does one communicate acts of hostility while identifying its historical form? If men’s prisons are understood as acceptable forms of violence/punishment, isn’t violence always already gendered?