As the rate of incarceration has escalated in America, there has been a corresponding increase in violence against women, Sociology Professor Susan Sered writes in the article “Sex, race and prison’s violent double standard: Incarcerating men hurts women, too” on Salon.com.
“Large-scale prison release is imperative if we wish to rebuild a democratic society. But while we are opening prison doors we need to institute policies that prevent the violence of prison culture from spilling over into communities,” she writes.
Sered, whose research interests include women’s health, criminalized women and culture and who has conducted a five-year study of homeless women in Boston, gets to the root of the problem when she quotes a woman whose partner had been released from prison:
“I believe that there is a level of violence and anger in any person, that anger can be increased … depending on … how much time was given for the crime, and the level of violence that the individual has to deal with in the correctional facility. … Some men have the ability to take traumatizing experiences and utilize it to teach others about the violence, homosexuality and verbal abuse from state officials and correctional officers they have to deal with on an everyday basis … [But] this type is atypical … In my opinion men who are typical … have displayed behaviors of cheating, lying, stealing, manipulation of women and people who don't know any better … Males only have so much patience before snapping and reliving what they view as an attack on them.”
Sered relates an all-too-common “Catch-22” for released inmates and their families:
“Nearly all (housing subsidies for low-income households) go to female-headed households. Because laws exclude individuals holding criminal records from eligibility for public and subsidized housing, people released from prison … often find that they are dependent upon women for a roof over their heads. However, the same housing laws allow … law-abiding citizens to be evicted if a former prisoner or someone who commits a crime is caught staying in their house. … Women …risk losing not only their housing but also their welfare and food stamps or even custody of their children when a man – even the child’s father in some cases– is “caught” living in “her” apartment. Yet a low-income man who has to pay his own rent may not be able to pay child support. And failure to pay child support, in turn, can be used by the courts as a reason to send a parent to jail.”