In Oklahoma, the female incarceration rate is very high and the women there are mainly in prison for drug possession and distribution. In particular, women of color have higher incarceration rates than their prospective representation in the state’s population (Herrera, et.al).
What’s happening in Oklahoma demonstrates a point that Angela Davis made in an excerpt from Prison Masculinities called, “Race, Gender, and Prison History: From the Convict Lease System to the Supermax Prison”. Davis discusses how in the 19th century, women were mainly punished in the domestic sphere; they were punished by whoever the male authority was around them — wives would be punished by their husbands and daughters would be punished by their fathers. When (white) men were deemed criminals, they had the chance to be rehabilitated, but when (white) women were deemed as criminals, they were often seen as having no hope of being rehabilitated because they were considered “fallen” (Davis 37).
It was worse for women of color because of the fact that they weren’t even seen as “fallen” if they were criminals; they were never “proper citizens” in the first place, so they couldn’t be rehabilitated at all either. The Oklahoma County District Attorney, David Prater, stated that “attitudes toward women accused of crimes need to change” and that women sometimes are viewed “as property” (Herrera, et.al). The people there have this traditional view that women should be “proper” and that using drugs is possibly the worst thing a woman could possibly do, therefore deserving the time they get in prison.
Women in the 19th century and still to this day, at least in Oklahoma, are held to a higher standard than men, and as a result are deemed as “unsavable” once they commit a crime like drug offences.
Additionally, at the Indiana Women’s Prison, a program called “The Wee Ones Nursery” provides the pregnant inmates a chance to stay and care for their babies (Sheridan). It’s important for a child’s health to be near their mothers, especially during infancy, so this program has significantly helped both mothers and children. Other prisons are still separating them, without considering the health consequences that will have on the babies. Only one prison created this program to allow mothers and babies to stay together, so this just inherently shows how irredeemable women still are in current society.
Herrera, Allison, et al. “Let Down And Locked Up: Why Oklahoma’s Female Incarceration Is So High.” KOSU, 20 Sept. 2017, www.kosu.org/post/let-down-and-locked-why-oklahomas-female-incarceration-so-high.
Sabo, Don F., et al. Prison Masculinities. Temple University Press, 2001.
Sheridan, Jill. “Program Allows Incarcerated Mothers Care For Newborns In Prison.” WFYI Public Media, WFYI, 31 Aug. 2017, www.wfyi.org/news/articles/program-allows-incarcerated-mothers-care-for-newborns-in-prison.