MARGINS Symposium Update
Brian P Marron
bmarr001 at UMARYLAND.EDU
Sat Feb 9 11:34:08 PST 2002
Here is the latest info on our symposium on women inmates. It will be
webcast live at www.law.umaryland.edu/margins.
MARGINS: Maryland's Interdisciplinary Publication
on Race, Religion, Gender, and Class
SPRING 2002 SYMPOSIUM
"Experiences of Women Inmates in the Twenty-First Century:
How well does the system serve female offenders and their
March 14, 2002
3:00 pm - 8:00 pm
University of Maryland, Baltimore
School of Nursing Auditorium
SCHEDULED PANELISTS AS OF FEBRUARY 7 INCLUDE:
Dr. Kenneth Kerle, Managing Editor of American Jails Magazine and
author of AMERICAN JAILS: LOOKING TO THE FUTURE (1998)
Barbara Boyle, Director of Social Work and Addiction Services,
Maryland Division of Corrections
Professor Martin Geer, UNLV, Boyd School of Law, author of
Human Rights and Wrongs In Our Own Backyard: Incorporating
International Human Rights Protections Under Domestic Civil
Rights Law - A Case Study of Women in U.S. Prisons,
13 HARVARD HUMAN RIGHTS JOURNAL 71 (2000)
Eric Sterling, President, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
Professor Natalie Sokoloff, John Jay School of Criminal Justice,
co-editor of THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND WOMEN: OFFENDERS,
VICTIMS, AND WORKERS (3rd ed. forthcoming)
Lamont Flanagan, Commissioner, Maryland Division of Pretrial
Detention and Services
CALL FOR PAPERS
The number of women incarcerated in America continues to rise. This
presents a growing need to recognize that the incarceration of women
raises many difficult issues differently than the incarceration of men.
On March 14, 2002, MARGINS will sponsor a symposium to discuss some of
these issues. This event will correspond with the broadcast of the radio
documentary entitled "Forgotten Voices."
"Forgotten Voices," was co-produced by MARGINS and the University of
Maryland, Baltimore County's Music Department. "Forgotten Voices"
includes interviews with women detained at the Baltimore City Detention
Center. The inmates and staff tell their stories and discuss the
availability and effectiveness of rehabilitative services both in BCDC and
in their communities. "Forgotten Voices" gives a valuable and intimate
depiction of one facility's treatment of its female inmates. After March
1, the documentary can be heard in its entirety on MARGINS' website:
This accompanying symposium will focus on some of the larger issues
concerning women's interaction with the criminal justice system.
First, how and why do women come under the authority of the criminal
justice system? Who are these female offenders, what crimes do they
typically commit, and most importantly, why? Various theories on female
criminality abound. Like their male counterparts explanations for female
crime often focus on socioeconomic conditions. Some theories are more
gender specific. Feminist theories have developed two schools of thought
on female criminality. Liberation feminists believe that as women move
toward equality with men, escaping traditional gender roles, it is
inevitable that women also move toward comparable offending rates.
Oppression feminists disagree, stating that women commit crimes as a
backlash against patriarchal oppression. Liberation feminists see
offenders as agents, while oppression feminists see offenders as victims.
How well do these and other theories explain the causes of female criminal
behavior? How should these theories impact legal policy decisions?
Women's Incarceration Experience
Second, in part because of the relatively small number of female
offenders compared to men, advocates for women inmates continue the
struggle to ensure that women receive programs and services afforded to
male prisoners. With respect to vocational training programs, female
inmates often do not have access to the same quality of services as men.
Frequently the programs are limited to activities conforming to
traditional gender roles such as cosmetology, sewing, typing, and
homemaking, rather than programs that could train women to be economically
independent upon release.
In addition, researchers have found that gender-specific programs may
be necessary to ensure that the incarceration experience is not more harsh
than that experienced by the similarly sentenced male offender.
Enduring problems in female incarceration also include prisoner
abuse, privacy issues, providing adequate physical and mental health care,
and the availability and efficacy of substance abuse treatment for women.
Impact on Children of Inmate Mothers
Third, academia has paid little attention to the impact of female
incarceration on the families left behind. Research shows that 70% of
female prisoners in state and federal prisons are single parents compared
to 18% of their male counterparts. Incarceration often puts the parental
rights of these parents at risk. Today, twenty-nine states have explicit
statutory provisions that include parental incarceration as one of the
criteria in supporting termination of parental rights or adoption.
Incarcerated women are almost five times more likely to lose their
children to foster care than are male inmates.
The incarceration of mothers also punishes their children. The
Women's Prison Association recently reported that the children of
incarcerated mothers "have a greater tendency to exhibit many of the
problems that generally accompany parental absence including: low
self-esteem, impaired achievement motivation and poor peer relations. In
addition, these children contend with feelings like anxiety, shame,
sadness, grief, social isolation and guilt. The children will often
withdraw and regress developmentally, exhibiting behaviors of younger
children, like bedwetting
. As the children reach adolescence, they may
begin to act out in anti-social ways. Searching for attention, pre-teens
and teens are at high risk for delinquency, drug addiction and gang
involvement." Should additional services be created to serve the children
of incarcerated mothers?
Should the judicial determination of what is an appropriate sentence
ever take into account the extraordinarily punitive impact a custody
sentence will have on the offender's family? The recent trend of creating
sentencing guidelines leave judges minimal discretion for treating family
responsibilities as a mitigating circumstance that encourages probation as
an alternative to prison and of mandatory sentences. This has created
disparately harsh results for incarcerated mothers and their children
Legal Remedies to Gender Inequality in the Corrections System
Lastly, where salient inequalities are found between men and women
inmates, how effective are the available legal remedies? The lack of some
prison programs and services has been challenged as constitutionally
inadequate relying on Eighth Amendment theories. However, constitutional
challenges brought on behalf of female prisoners often have not been
effective in securing programs and services specifically relevant to
female prisoners. The challenges failed because the requested program is
not compelled by a constitutional right; the lack of the program does not
amount to cruel and unusual punishment, or the program's focus on the
unique needs of women negates the equal protection argument because with
respect to program the male and female prisoners are no longer similarly
situated. How have challenges to the inadequacy of gender-neutral
programs provided to women fared since the Supreme Court's most recent and
relevant application of the heightened scrutiny standard for gender
discrimination in United States v. Virginia, 515 U.S. 515 (the VMI
How does that decision meld with the holding of Turner v. Safley, 482
U.S. 78 (1987) that the proper inquiry for prisoners' claims of
constitutional violations is "whether a prison regulation that burdens
fundamental rights is reasonably related to legitimate penological
objectives, or whether it represents an exaggerated response to those
To participate in this symposium as a panelist please contact MARGINS
University of Maryland School of Law
515 West Lombard St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
margins at law.umaryland.edu
MARGINS invites panelists to present papers between 15 and 50 pages long.
For consideration for presentation and for publication in the next issue
of MARGINS please submit abstracts via email to the above address by
February 13. Presenters will be notified by February 20, and will please
submit a complete draft by March 6 to be shared with co-panelists in order
to facilitate the discussion on March 14.
If you would like to attend the symposium, please RSVP by March 6, 2002,
by calling MARGINS at 410-706-7151 or via email at
margins at law.umaryland.edu.
Brian P. Marron David Russell
Editor-in-Chief Executive Editor
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