The Two Genders In The Prison Systems: Research Paper Example

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Crime, Women, Prison, Social Issues, Men, Family, Criminal Justice, System

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2020/11/25

Discussing the Differing Experiences of Male and Female Inmates

There are many people in the prison system for any number of different crimes, from the petty to the most heinous. However, the prison experience is quite different for men than women. Male prisoners commit different crimes for different reasons than most women. Women are more likely to be incarcerated for drug crimes than the more severe crimes of murder. However, while men have a harsher time within the prison environment and women often receive lenient sentences for the same crimes, women suffer greater emotional and mental issues stemming from the time incarcerated than most men. In the end there is a calculable difference in the two experiences that calls for reconsideration and reforms to the current United States corrections facilities.


Incarceration as a fitting punishment for differing crimes has been the feasible solution for wrong-doers for centuries. How long of a sentence one receives is dependent on the nature of and the severity of the crime committed. While many attempts have been made to use strict and lengthy sentence as a deterrent to crime, the reality is that it has not reduced crime or the number of inmates entering into these facilities. In fact, the prison population is growing, which has lead to overcrowded, understaffed and result in facilities that provide limited programs to rehabilitate the prisoners present. The United State is often perceived as an “Incarceration Nation” (Guerino, Harrison & Sabol, 2011). The U.S. has more prisoners erected and all too many inmates filling them up beyond their intended or appropriate capacities. This is true of all adult prisoner facilities, both men’s’ and women’s’. However, while both men and women are capable of committing serious crimes and of receiving severe prison terms, the experience of the justice system, life within a prison, and how they adjust when released is in many cases very different (Currie, 2012). The reality is that most women, those who commit crime, have very differing reasons for engaging in criminal behavior than men, are involved in far more non-violent crimes than men, suffer greater emotional losses when incarcerated than their male counterparts, interact with inmates differently than men and, finally, have a more difficult time adjusting upon their release.


Historically speaking, there have always been disparities between the societal perceptions of men and women when it comes to commission of crime. There was a time when women were essentially exempt from severe punishments like lengthy prison terms, life sentences and the death penalty. A prime example would be the case of Lizzie Borden, one of famous murder cases if all time. Lizzie Borden was accused of murdering her father and stepmother with an ax. While there was no definitive evidence of her guilt, the circumstantial evidence offers the compelling possibility of her guilt. Still, Lizzie was acquitted of the crime. Many feel that her acquittal was based not on the facts of the case but upon her gender. They could not fathom how petite, proper young women could possible commit such a savage and violent act of multiple murders. This created an ethical issue in how criminals of different genders are viewed (Bowker, 1981). Today of course, we know that some women are entirely capable of such heinous and incredibly violent crimes and are equally deserving of serving time for such crimes. At the same time, the bulk of women who are currently incarcerated are not murderers, but have committed drug crimes and fraud. Regardless the number of inmates of all genders continues to grow, as it does the differences between male and female inmates become more and more obvious


Of the majority prisons incarcerated across the country have always been populated by more male inmates than female. These male inmates are responsible for the bulk of violent crime, robbery, car theft, rape, and murder, while women tend to include more drug and social offenses, like prostitution (Covington, 2001). This has to do with the reasons behind the criminal behavior. Males often commit crimes for monetary gain; women seldom commit these same crimes for the same reason. Many women resort to criminal behavior out of perceived necessity; an inability to make ends meet or feed their children. This sometimes results in a certain amount of leniency when their sentences are handed down (Huffington Post, 2012).Women who commit crimes often have suffered from abuses that have left them with emotional issues that can color their decision making; again, not often do these women seek purely monetary or material gain. This makes a huge difference in the criminal motivations of men and women.
Men who are incarcerated often lose their sense of support and family. They often are not visited as frequently than females. Women, however, tend to develop their own familial support groups among the inmate populations. That said there are instances of violence and negative behaviors within women’s facilities, but it is far more common among male prisoners than female. Research is showing that there is a greater emotional burden on women who are incarcerated that is less present among male populations. When female inmates are sentenced to prison terms many leave behind children who may have relied upon them for their care. When they are locked up, these children may be cared for by other family members or placed into the foster care system. This weighs more heavily upon the shoulders of female inmates over male. Men who are incarcerated may also leave behind children, but these children often have mothers who care for them whether the father is present or not. This is just another prime example of how the experience of prison can have on women, who are more likely to become depressed, suffer emotional distresses and to attempt suicide as any male inmate (Covington, 2001). They are also prone to internalizing their pain and anger, where men become more aggressive with one another, women self-abuse, acts like cutting and burning themselves (Bedard, 2008).
The recidivism rates, the likelihood of released inmates to commit more crime and be returned to the prison system, are high for both men and women in the United States in this modern era more than any other. However, while men are more likely to commit further crimes because they have a hard time finding employment and housing, therefore a return to crime becomes the only option. For women, because the bulk of their crimes are drug related, do not receive proper treatment during incarceration and are unprepared for their own release and may return to drugs (Clark. 2009). This likelihood grows when these women are freed, but their children have been and are being raised by others; getting them back is a long and difficult process. This only leads to greater despair and self-inflicted crime, like taking more drugs and committing more crimes (Covington, 2001).
Improving the situation and developing a level of justness and fairness to the way that men and women are processed through the criminal justice system will go a long way to repairing the prison system as it exists. There are many who suggest the rectifying of the issue of overcrowding will go a long way to allow funding to improve the services available to all inmates, male and female alike. There has been a mentality that to remove sexism from how prisoners are perceived a “non-sexual” or “unisexual” approach to how prisons are operated and prisoners are treated. However, since the bulk of the prison system was designed to function with male inmates, not women, the systems unisex approach is perceived as just treating everyone as males, even in women’s prisons (Clark, 2009). This is clearly no longer working. There are suggestions presently in Europe, that it since women make up such a small portion of the makeup of United Kingdom prisons, perhaps it would make more sense to simply stop incarcerating women in prisons at all and finding alternative approaches (O'Brien, 2014).All of these suggesting have merit, to a certain degree. However, as yet, the United States has no such intention and the idea of making women exempt from prison raises some ethical red flags on ethics of gender biased.


There are millions of past, present and future number of wrong-doers who will find themselves in the prison system for a plethora of varying crimes, both men and women alike. There is a great need of reform in American prisons and including greater consideration to the differences of the genders and how to make the prison experience not only a punishment, but also a means to take these wrong-doers and return them to society as more productive. That said the experience of men and women in the prison system does differ greatly and raises many questions of ethics, effectiveness and efficiency of how these systems are structured and operated. The experience for either is not fantastic and it is prison and it is not supposed to be a vacation, but an admonishment for their illegal acts, but the human factors cannot be forgotten. As unusual as it may sound, by improving the quality of the correctional facilities and the services that they can provide for inmates so that their return to society is more successful would, in fact, is hugely impactful on the recidivism rates and the need to maintain overcrowded prisons, regardless of gender.


Bedard, L. E. (2008). Female vs. male inmates: The rewards and challenges of managing both. Corrections One, 1. Retrieved from
Bowker , L. H. (1981). Gender differences in prisoner subcultures. From Women and Crime in America, 409-419.
Clark, J. C. (2009). Inequality in prison. American Psychological Association Monitor, 40(9), 55. Retrieved from
Covington, S. S. (2001). A woman’s journey home: Challenges for female offenders and their children. From Prison to Home: The Effect of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families, and Communities, 1.
Currie, B. (2012). Women in prison: A forgotten population?. Internet Journal of Criminology, 1-30. Retrieved from
Guerino, P., Harrison, P. M., & Sabol, W. J. (2011). Prisoners in 2010. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Retrieved from
O'Brien, P. (2014, November 6). We should stop putting women in jail. for anything. The Washington Post. Retrieved from
The Huffington Post. (2012, September 11). Men sentenced to longer prison terms than women for same crimes, study says. 1. Retrieved from

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