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Women in Prisons (From Prison Review -- Te Ara Hou: The New Way, P 151-171, 1989 -- See NCJ-121757)

NCJ Number
Date Published
20 pages
Issues relevant to the imprisonment of women in New Zealand are reviewed, including rights of both children and parents.
The experience of female imprisonment has been shaped by the demand for space and facilities and by particular assumptions about the nature of female criminals. From the outset, women prisoners were treated differently than men, being considered more morally depraved and in need of special forms of control, confinement, and treatment. This view of women was replaced by another image in the early 20th century that saw female criminality as wayward, delinquent, and childlike. Institutional demands to accommodate an increasing number of male inmates have consistently determined the location and conditions under which women are imprisoned. The number of females currently imprisoned in New Zealand is less than it was 100 years ago. In 1877, women comprised 19 percent of the prison population; in 1987, women accounted for only 4 percent of the total inmate population. Although it is recommended that female inmates be housed separately from male inmates, differential treatment should be abandoned in favor of humane containment that promotes individual self-responsibility and self-respect regardless of gender. One of the least acknowledged consequences of imprisonment is the effect of children's forced separation from their incarcerated parents, and the situation of incarcerated mothers requires particular attention. Liaison with the mother concerning the child's welfare and placement should be an ongoing responsibility of the prison social worker, recognizing that the impact of parental separation varies in accordance with a child's age. The case for keeping mothers and children together in the prison environment is not supported. 20 references.