Even women in prison can’t escape the sexist stereotype of the “difficult woman.”
An NPR investigative report shows that in American prisons, discipline comes down disproportionately hard on female inmates.
Excerpt from the NPR story, which you can listen to and watch:
Across the country, women in prison are disciplined at higher rates than men — often two to three times more often, and sometimes more — for smaller infractions of prison rules.
That is the finding of an investigation by NPR and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. We collected data from women's and men's prisons, visited five women's prisons around the country, and interviewed current and former prisoners along with past and present wardens and prison officials. We also spoke with academics and other experts.
In 13 of the 15 states we analyzed, women get in trouble at higher rates than men. The discrepancies are highest for more minor infractions of prison rules.
Different states sometimes used different ways of counting prisoners and punishments. We used the data states provided to divide the number of punishments by the number of inmates to estimate rates of discipline for men and women.
In California, according to our data analysis, women get more than twice the disciplinary tickets for what's called "disrespect."
In Vermont, women are more than three times as likely as men to get in trouble for "derogatory comments" about a corrections officer or another inmate.
In Rhode Island, women get more than three times the tickets for "disobedience." And in Iowa, female prisoners were nearly three times as likely as men to get in trouble for the violation of being "disruptive."
While the infractions might seem minor, punishment for them can have significant consequences, we found. In Idaho and Rhode Island, for instance, women are more likely than men to end up in solitary confinement for violations like disobedience.
Women can lose "good conduct credits" that would shorten an inmate's sentence, causing them to spend more time behind bars. In California, between January 2016 and February 2018, women had the equivalent of 1,483 years added to their sentences through good-credit revocations, and at a higher rate than for male prisoners, according to the data we collected.
Discipline for small infractions can also result in the loss of privileges like being able to buy food or supplies — including women's hygiene products — at the prison commissary. Or inmates lose their visitation and phone privileges. That can have a particular effect on women, because more than half of women in prison are the mothers of children 18 or younger.
[via, image: Shutterstock]