Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is Prison Worse for Women?

In case you missed it, the Jan. 30 issue of The New Yorker contained a powerful essay by Adam Gopnik on the staggering number of people (disproportionally of color) we have imprisoned—often, with sentences absurdly out of whack with the severity of their crimes—in this country. Here’s a brief taste:

Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.

Gopnik goes on to trace the intellectual history of our contemporary zeal for lengthy, impersonal, probably ineffective confinements, concluding that what’s needed is not a revolutionary throwing-over of the prison system, but instead a concerted, multifaceted effort to starve the beast though small measures: for example, the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

While this is all very compelling, one thing is missing from Gopnik’s harrowing portrait of “Lockuptown”—he doesn’t really acknowledge that city’s female residents.

Read on....

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