Working the Crisis Hotline

This guest blog post is written in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. #SAAM

By Ken Kolb, author of Moral Wages: The Emotional Dilemmas of Victim Advocacy and Counseling

I remember my first overnight shift. They gave me a cell phone. When I got home, I put it on the kitchen counter. When I went upstairs  to fold some laundry, I panicked and rushed downstairs to retrieve it: I was terrified I might miss a call.

One rite of passage every victim advocate remembers is their first night shift on the crisis hotline. Nearly every agency in the country that assists victims of sexual assault hosts some type of hotline. (To find one near you, go to the National Sexual Assault Hotline.) Unlike what we see in the movies, the hotline isn’t answered in some high-tech command center. Sexual assault agencies can’t afford anything like that. Instead, staff and volunteers agree to take turns on different nights of the week.

When it was my turn, and it finally rang, I thought I was ready. I had my binder. I had my training. I took a deep breath.

My first call involved more listening than talking. Victims have had a good deal of the power and control over their lives taken away from them. To help them is to restore that power. And that means letting them lead the conversation.

When it was over, it took a while for my heart rate to slow back down. I was filled with doubt. Did I give the right information? I double checked the binder. Did I say the right thing? I went over my notes.

I never met the woman I talked to. She was exhausted and confused. She had been dealing with this for weeks. She couldn’t sleep. She needed to talk.

I did my best. I still tell myself that. I still think about it.

What other jobs require their workers to pay this type of emotional price? On the hotline, the roller coaster of stress, elation, anxiety, and satisfaction does not end at 5pm or on holidays. The hotline never stops ringing.

Victim advocates earn little in the way of pay or prestige, and yet we rely on them day and night to fight on the front lines against sexual assault. During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, let’s think about ways we can help the helpers. After all, if we want to develop better victim services, we should probably know a little bit more about those who will deliver them.

If you know of anyone who works with victims, here are some ways to help them manage their emotional burden.

Ways to Help:

  • Ask them about their work. Not many people do. The topic of sexual assault can make people uncomfortable, causing victim advocates to have few outlets to share their feelings.
  • Don’t press them for details. Victim advocates want to talk about their job, but confidentiality requirements limit the amount of information they can divulge. Their secrets keep others safe.
  • Inquire about positive cases. Victim advocacy can be a troubling and disheartening job, but it can also be rewarding. Even little “wins” at work can mean a lot. Talking about them lets the helpers remember why they make the sacrifices they do.

Kenneth H. Kolb is Associate Professor of Sociology at Furman University. His book, Moral Wages: The Emotional Dilemmas of Victim Advocacy and Counselingis based on over a year of fieldwork by a man in a setting many presume to be hostile to men. It offers the reader a vivid depiction of what it is like to work inside an agency that assists victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.


Repeal and Replace is a Women’s Issue

By Susan Starr Sered, co-author of Uninsured in America and Can’t Catch a Break

In recognition of Women’s History Month, this post is republished with permission from the author. #RepealAndReplace #WomensHistoryMonth

The Republican plan to eliminate or change substantial portions of the Affordable Care Act is likely to have a disproportionately deleterious impact on women. This is why.

Women compared to men use more medical services and spend more on health care. Thus, any reduction in government support for health care will affect women more than men.

Women make more visits each year to primary care physicians than do men and are more likely than men to take at least one prescription drug on a daily basis.  According to the Health Care Cost Institute, “In 2015, spending was $5,684 per woman and $4,581 per man. …  From 2012 to 2015, the difference in spending between genders rose from $1,071 per capita to $1,103 per capita.  Per capita spending for women was higher than for men on every type of service, except brand prescriptions.”

Given women’s higher healthcare needs, the ACA protected women by requiring all plans to meet a minimum level of coverage that includes a basic basket of necessary services. The Trump administration has announced that they will reduce the price of premiums so that Americans can have more “choice” to select less expensive insurance.  Less expensive insurance typically covers less, which disproportionately hurts people who have need of more medical services. Lower premiums also may come with higher annual deductibles, meaning that people need to spend a large sum of money out-of-pocket before insurance will pay. Again, this places a particularly heavy burden on people who need more healthcare services.

In particular, women are more likely than men to suffer mental health challenges and women make substantially greater use of mental health services. Beginning in 2020, the GOP plan would eliminate the current requirement that Medicaid cover basic mental-health and addiction services. This roll back of mental health parity requirements will disproportionately hurt women.

Women are less able than men to afford health care.

According to the Department of Labor, women earn less than men. In 2014, for example, women who worked full time in wage and salary jobs had median usual weekly earnings of $719, which was 83 percent of men’s median weekly earnings ($871).

The Republican plan emphasizes tax credits and health savings accounts, both of which are irrelevant to low-income Americans.

According to the Department of Labor, women are more likely than men to be among the working poor. This is the group that has the most to lose with the Republican plan to decrease subsidies and eventually eliminate the Medicaid expansion.

The Republican approach to Medicaid disproportionately impacts women.

Nationally, women make up 56% of Medicaid recipients (in 2015). In states that did not expand Medicaid under the ACA, women are an even greater proportion of Medicaid recipients. In South Carolina, for example, 67% of Medicaid recipients are women. In Nebraska 66% are women. Thus, phasing out the Medicaid expansion will disproportionally hurt women.

The ethos of suspicion directed at Medicaid recipients will further hurt women. For example, the Republican plan requires states to re-determine Medicaid eligibilities “no less frequently than every six months.” Given that women bear the greater share of responsibility for arranging health care in American households, the need to frequently recertify eligibility will place an increased time burden on women to keep track and show evidence of eligibility.

Near elderly women are at particular risk of losing coverage under the Republican plan.

Women are less likely than men to be insured through their own job (35% vs. 44% respectively) and more likely to be covered as a dependent (24% vs. 16%), a disparity that reflects the fact that women are more likely than men to work at part-time jobs in order to carry out duties as primary caregivers for children, sick and disabled family members, and elderly parents.

At the same time, many American women are married to men who are slightly or significantly older than they. This means that when the husband retires and becomes eligible for Medicare, the wife loses the “dependent” coverage she had while her husband was employed, but she herself will not yet be Medicare eligible.

This age group has particularly high healthcare needs that may become exacerbated while waiting for Medicare eligibility.

Under the A.C.A., plans can charge their oldest customers only three times the prices charged to the youngest ones. The Republican plan allows insurers to charge older customers five times as much as younger ones and gives states the option to set their own ratio.

Planned Parenthood

The Republican plan singles out Planned Parenthood, prohibiting federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year beginning with the enactment of the law. This will have a disproportionately negative impact on women.

Two and a half million women and men in the United States annually visit Planned Parenthood affiliate health centers for a variety of healthcare services. Most of these people are women who would stand to lose a wide range of primary healthcare services including, but not limited to, contraception.

Abortion

Under the Republican plan, qualified health plans cannot include abortion coverage except for pregnancies that present life-threatening physical risks (not mental health risks) and pregnancies that resulted from rape or incest.

This provision not only reduces access to a needed medical procedure, but it also seems to require some sort of process for determining whether a pregnancy is life-threatening or confirming that a pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. This potentially could force women to prove (to the satisfaction of an insurance company) that she indeed was raped, and it certainly would delay performing the abortion – a delay that in and of itself presents health risks to women.

The Republican plan does allow insurance to pay to treat “any infection, injury, disease or disorder that has been caused or exacerbated by the performance of an abortion.” Since legal abortions performed by a qualified medical provider in a suitable medical setting are extremely safe, this provision seems to be set up for women who have resorted to “backstreet” abortions. While it is unlikely that the plan’s intent is to encourage illicit abortions, this provision seems to acknowledge that an increase in unsafe abortions may be a consequence of the plan.

This analysis was prepared by Susan Sered on March 8, 2017. Healthcare legislation currently is highly volatile with many changes proposed. Stay tuned – I will come back and update this analysis as more information becomes available.


Susan Starr Sered is Professor of Sociology and Senior Researcher at the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University in Boston. She is the author of Uninsured in America: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity and Can’t Catch a Break: Gender, Jail, Drugs, and the Limits of Personal Responsibility. Read more on Susan’s blog at http://susan.sered.name/blog/.


The Shameful Neglect of Pregnant Women Behind Bars

This guest post is published as part of a series in relation to the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference, which occurred from March 21 – 25 in Kansas City, MO, and in recognition of Women’s History Month. #ACJS2017 #WomensHistoryMonth

By Carolyn Sufrin, author of Jailcare: Finding the Safety Net for Women behind Bars

March is Women’s History Month, created to celebrate women’s often overlooked contributions to history. But the celebratory tone must also recognize the tenacious, exclusionary gender oppressions and knowledge omissions of the present. Let’s consider this for the U.S.’s penal system: the number of males in the criminal justice system far outnumbers the number of females in the U.S., with females comprising 14% of the jail and 7% of the prison. Reflecting this numerical proportion, we have seen public discourse, policies, and even scholarship overlook the experiences incarcerated women, an omission which implicitly equates male and female incarcerated individuals while simultaneously disregarding how correctional systems are already deeply gendered. Yet we know the pathways and collateral consequences of incarcerating women are different than for men, especially considering that two-thirds of incarcerated women are mothers and the primary caregivers for young children. And we know that the war on drugs and welfare restructuring have disproportionately affected the rate of incarcerating women.

If incarcerated women in general are overlooked, then pregnant women behind bars are even more so. Though data are scarce, it’s estimated that about 1,400 women give birth while in custody every year, and thousands of pregnant women pass through our nation’s prisons and jails. With no mandatory national standards for pregnancy care in correctional settings, these women have astonishingly variable experiences of adequate to shamefully dangerous prenatal care, of being denied their legal right to abortion, of being shackled in labor, of being separated from their newborns after birth. Amid this variability, incarcerated pregnant women and mothers are also enshrouded in derisive, punitive cultural narratives of being “bad mothers,” without regard for broader circumstances structuring their pathway to incarceration.

These are not new injustices. But the policies and sentiments of the current administration, with its renewed “tough on crime” rhetoric, its punitive disdain for “deviant” women (such as President Donald Trump, as a candidate, declaring that women should be punished for having an abortion), its rounding up of undocumented immigrants (many of whom will linger in jails and detention centers), will likely exacerbate conditions in a system that is already ill equipped for and, in many cases, dangerous for pregnant women. If Women’s History Month amplifies that classic feminist project of consciousness raising, then we must engage and respond to the experiences of pregnant women behind bars—one of the most overlooked groups of women in the country.


Carolyn Sufrin is a medical anthropologist and an obstetrician-gynecologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.


Why Do Some Countries Disapprove of Homosexuality? Money, Democracy and Religion

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. This post is republished during the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference occurring March 21 – 25 in Kansas City, MO. #ACJS2017


By Amy Adamczyk, City University of New York, author of Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes across the Globe

Image 20170227 18526 18hfh5y
Gay pride – but not everywhere. bensonkua/flickr, CC BY-SA

With Trump’s removal of federal protections for transgender students, debate over LGBTQ rights rage again across the U.S. The Conversation

Despite these disagreements, Americans are relatively liberal compared to countries across the world, where the consequences for gay or transgender citizens are far more dire.

In Europe and here in the Americas, only a minority of people believe that homosexuality is never justified. The percentage increases in places like Russia, India and China. In Africa, the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia, attitudes become even more conservative.

Why are there such big differences in public opinion about homosexuality? My book, Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality, shows that a key part of the answer comes in understanding how national characteristics shape individuals’ attitudes.

Within countries, a similar set of demographic characteristics tend to influence how people feel about homosexuality. For example, women tend to be more liberal than men. Older people tend to be more conservative than younger ones. Muslims are more likely to disapprove of homosexuality than Catholics, Jews and mainline Protestants.

Just like people, countries too have particular characteristics that can sway residents’ attitudes about homosexuality. I have analyzed data from over 80 nations from the last three waves of the World Values Survey, the oldest noncommercial, cross-national examination of individuals’ attitudes, values and beliefs over time. It is the only academic survey to include people from both very rich and poor countries, in all of the world’s major cultural zones. It now has surveys from almost 400,000 respondents.

My analysis shows that differences in attitudes between nations can largely be explained by three factors: economic development, democracy and religion.

Money matters

Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands are some of the richest nations in the world. They are also some of the most tolerant. In sharp contrast, countries like Uganda and Nigeria are quite poor and the vast majority of residents disapprove.

How does the amount of money a country has shape attitudes? In very poor countries, people are likely to be more concerned about basic survival. Parents may worry about how to obtain clean water and food for their children. Residents may feel that if they stick together and work closely with friends, family and community members, they will lead a more predictable and stable life. In this way, social scientists have found that a group mentality may develop, encouraging people to think in similar ways and discouraging individual differences.

Because of the focus on group loyalty and tradition, many residents from poorer countries are likely to view homosexuality as highly problematic. It violates traditional sensibilities. Many people may feel that LGBTQ individuals should conform to dominant heterosexual and traditional family norms.

Conversely, residents from richer nations are less dependent on the group and less concerned about basic survival. They have more freedom to choose their partners and lifestyle. Even in relatively rich countries like the United States, some people will still find homosexuality problematic. But, many will also be supportive.

Regardless of how much money they make, most people living in poorer countries are likely to be affected by cultural norms that focus on survival and group loyalty, leading to more disapproval.

Freedom of speech

The type of government also matters. People living in more democratic countries tend to be more supportive of homosexuality.

Democracy increases tolerance by exposing residents to new perspectives. Democracy also encourages people to respect individuals’ rights, regardless of whether they personally like the people being protected.

Freedom of speech also allows residents to protest and not be arrested. When residents feel that they can freely express their ideas, they become even more inclined to speak up for themselves and others. This leads to more tolerance.

Dominant religious views

The final factor shaping individuals’ attitudes is religion. Countries dominated by Islam, Eastern Orthodoxy and those that have a mixture of conservative and mainline Protestant faiths are more likely to disapprove.

In contrast, nations dominated by mainline Protestant religions and Catholicism – such as Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom – are much more liberal.

Why are people from Muslim majority nations so opposed to homosexuality? Both Islam and conservative Protestant faiths generate high levels of religious belief. Most religious texts say that homosexuality is problematic. More religious people are more likely to take these religious precepts seriously. When a large proportion of people are highly dedicated to their religion, everyone within the country tends to develop more conservative views.

In these countries, the media are likely to reflect dominant religious views. Schools and businesses are more likely to support religious perspectives that disapprove of homosexuality. The government may censor the media so that they do not violate religious sensibilities. They may also restrict nonprofit organizations and human rights groups that promote views inconsistent with conservative religious values. Religious friends and family members are likely to reinforce anti-homosexual views.

Finally, there may not be any gay bars or other places to meet people with friendlier attitudes in these countries. Likewise, there may be limited internet access where residents could get more information about gay men and lesbians. In these countries most people are likely to disapprove, regardless of whether or not they are personally religious.

Are most nations becoming more liberal?

In 1996, there were only six nations that allowed for civil union or marriage. Seventeen years later, 43 nations allowed for it.

However, there has also been an increase in the number of nations that have a constitution or legal ban on homosexuality, indicating that there seems to have been a small backlash. These actions could be a reaction against the liberal legislation put in place in other countries.

As people across the world develop more liberal attitudes, many still disagree. Countries that are highly opposed to homosexuality tend to put in place policies and laws that reflect this disapproval.

While religion, economic development and democracy have a major role in shaping attitudes, the march toward greater liberalization is less straightforward than these factors alone would suggest.

Nations are embedded in a global context. Many countries located in Europe and North America were the first to become wealthy and democratic. Because they were the leaders, they were not subject to the pressure that currently up-and-coming countries now face from more powerful countries that led the way for gay rights.

Additionally, religion remains relevant, even in many rich societies, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and up-and-coming countries, like Egypt and South Africa.

Future changes in attitudes are likely to be complicated by international forces and the continuing significance of religion.

Eighty percent of the countries I examined are becoming more liberal. However, we can’t assume that these changes will always be linear or simple. While we’ve seen a general trend toward more liberal views regarding homosexuality, there are likely to be hiccups along the way that affect how these different socioeconomic and cultural influences take shape nationally and across the world.


Amy Adamczyk is Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

 


Police Intelligence: Linking Teaching, Practice and Research

By Dean Dabney & Richard Tewksbury, authors of Speaking Truth to Power: Confidential Informants and Police Investigations

This guest post is published as part of a series in relation to the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference occurring March 21 – 25 in Kansas City, MO. #ACJS2017

In the world of police intelligence the ideas of teaching, practice and research are all critically important for an integrated approach to one of the foundational activities that sets the gears of the criminal justice machine in motion. One powerful and increasingly relied upon component of the law enforcement toolkit for gathering of intelligence is the use of confidential informants. The practice is widely acknowledged but plagued by a dearth of research and teaching about the issue. When most Americans think of confidential informants (or, “snitches”) they immediately envision media-inspired/perpetuated stereotypes and images. Who are informants, how they work, with whom they work, and when, where and why the police employ informants are all issues about which people primarily “learn” via entertainment media. Are those images correct? Maybe, but maybe not. Unfortunately, we have a paucity of research about the topic.

In fact, unfortunately we have very little research on how police gather information, regardless of the means. As scholars we have done a good job examining how the police use information in investigations, prevention programs and solving crimes. But, how information is gathered is largely beyond the view of social scientists. This is especially crucial in the War on Drugs, where information gathering is critical for any and all of our “successes”.

This is because it is a secretive activity, and there is a need for such activities to be at least somewhat undercover for them to be effective. However, that argument can be made for many types of activities, by many types of actors – both inside and outside the criminal justice system. The fact is that we do have knowledge about all kinds of “hidden” aspects of many social activities. In fact, there is no reason we cannot, or should not, study these realms. The question becomes why we do not investigate police intelligence gathering more frequently and in more depth and detail?

The argument that scholars are “kept out” would be easy to make, and many can offer stories of their own efforts to gain access to data but being thwarted in their efforts. But, this is not to say that there is a police conspiracy to keep researchers out. As our own experiences showed, access, and even acceptance, inside the policing world is achievable. The key is to find the right “spot” for making entry. If we find receptive individuals and organizations and we approach the issue in an open and unbiased way, it can be done.

Scholars are not systematically and universally excluded from studying police and their activities from the inside. There are opportunities, but as scholars we need to seek, find and perhaps most importantly nurture relationships that can facilitate our ability to “see it from the inside”. How can we truly “see it from the inside”? In order to do so, we need to actually physically be inside, and then stay there. We need to actually talk to police, community members, and even offenders. We need to meet the people who do the gathering of information, and we need to see them actually do it. We need to understand how the experience feels, how it rewards and frustrates, and what can be done when unanticipated obstacles arise. In short, we need qualitative, ethnographic research on the topic.

The practice of law enforcement intelligence gathering and use of confidential informants is a practice that is common, valuable but severely lacking in research. Without research on the topic we also have nothing to teach about the topic, except for what is common in our entertainment media. In this way the issue of police intelligence and use of confidential informants is a prime example of the need to integrate teaching, practice and research. As we stand now without that integration – and without quality ethnographic investigations — we are left with no knowledge, and no promises of gaining knowledge to teach about a practice. Only with the dedication of pioneering scholars will we be able to overcome our dearth of knowledge and learn how to better manage our law enforcement practices.

See Dean Dabney at: ACJS’s Author Meets Critic Session
Wednesday, March 22nd
11:00 am to 12:15 pm
Muehlebach Tower: Floor Trianon Level – Lido

Moderator:
Rod Brunson, Rutgers University

Critics:
Scott Decker, Arizona State University
William Wells, Sam Houston State University


Dean A. Dabney is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University.

Richard Tewksbury is Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Louisville.

 


Save 40% with UC Press during the 2017 Academy of Criminal Justice Annual Meeting

The 2017 ACJS Annual Meeting meeting convenes March 21 – 25 in Kansas City, MO.

Visit Booth #300 to see the latest UC Press titles in Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Law and Society. Books focus on linking the teaching, practice, and research on issues such as incarceration, corrections, policing, gender, immigration, school to prison pipeline, and much more. Senior Editor Maura Roessner wiil be in attendance if you’d like to learn more about working with her to become a UC Press textbook author or reviewer.

Read the latest blog posts from our authors.

And save 40% online with discount code 16E6715, or request an exam copy for consideration to use in your upcoming classes. The discount code expires April 5, 2017.


Save 40% with UC Press during the 2017 Western Society of Criminology Conference

The 2017 WSC conference convenes February 9 – 11 in Las Vegas, NV. Senior Editor Maura Roessner will be in attendance if you’d like to learn more about working with her to become a UC Press author or reviewer. #WSC2017

Check out the following UC Press titles in Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Law and Society with books that focus on incarceration, corrections, policing, gender, immigration, school to prison pipeline, and much more. And read more from our authors such as Hadar Aviram, Barbara Owen, Molly Dragiewicz, and much more.

Save 40% online with discount code 16E8104, or request an exam copy for consideration to use in your upcoming classes. The discount code expires February 2, 2017.

 


What Happens to Undocumented Children & Families in the Trump Era

By Susan J. Terrio, author of Whose Child Am I?: Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody

U.S. Border Patrol apprehension of migrants, Rio Grande Valley Sector near McAllen, Texas. Photo by Michelle Frankfurter.
U.S. Border Patrol apprehend migrants near McAllen, Texas. Photo by Michelle Frankfurter.

Academics, advocates and legal scholars here and abroad expressed alarm at the campaign rhetoric of then presidential candidate Donald Trump, who promised to build a wall on our southern border to keep out “illegals,” to ban Muslims and to create a federal registry to track them, to end humanitarian protections for undocumented youths brought to this country as children, and to round-up and deport 1.9 million unauthorized immigrants. Now in office, Trump is delivering on those promises with a rash of executive orders fueled by his own vision of the nation and a false sense of urgency regarding the threats posed by foreign workers, criminal aliens, and Muslim terrorists.

I wrote Whose Child Am I? to emphasize the dangers of creating two parallel but separate federal systems to manage the increasing numbers of unaccompanied, undocumented Central American and Mexican children who were apprehended by U.S. immigration authorities after fleeing violence at home: preemptive detention in closed facilities and monitored programs and placement in deportation proceedings in immigration courts. I also noted the conflict of interest created when one branch of the government assigns itself as a child’s legal guardian while another branch prosecutes that same child for violating immigration law. Undocumented children currently have no right to funded legal representation in court and are subject to arbitrary placement and release decisions while in custody. The limited rights and humanitarian safeguards they enjoy in federal detention are offset by due process violations, detention with no set endpoint, limited access to pro bono attorneys, and the fear of deportation after release.

Terrio Whose Child Am IAs my book was going to press in 2014, migratory flows of unaccompanied children and undocumented families from Central America exploded. We witnessed desperate migrants running to, not away from, Border Patrol agents. The U.S. has treated this violence-driven refugee crisis as if it were an economic migration problem. The Obama administration responded to the arrival of unprecedented numbers of undocumented children and families with enhanced enforcement and heightened deterrence policies designed to prevent their entry and to remove them rapidly. These included expedited processing that stripped them of basic constitutional protections and exposed them to abuse, the outsourcing of the violent interdiction, detention and deportation of Central Americans to Mexico and Guatemala, and the rapid expansion of detention facilities in the U.S. for both unaccompanied minors and families with children. Despite these policies, in 2016, a record number of unaccompanied minors crossed the border and were detained-77,674.

The large-scale detention and deportation regime can only be expected to continue as Trump’s recent executive orders call for a border wall, robust collaboration between local and federal authorities to round up and deport undocumented immigrants, sanctions against sanctuary cities, and tougher procedures for admitting refugees. We would do well to remember the terrible costs of vicious nativism and anti-immigrant rhetoric in our history. We need to use verifiable facts to expose the Trump administration’s exaggerated threats that justify increasingly restrictive policies and muscular border control.

 


Susan TerrioSusan J. Terrio is is Professor of Anthropology at Georgetown University. In addition to Whose Child Am I?, she is also the author of Judging Mohammed: Juvenile Delinquency, Immigration, and Exclusion at the Paris Palace of Justice. 


Human Rights Day: A Focus on Prison Reform

Today is Human Rights Day, which commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We felt moved to turn this year’s focus on prisoner’s rights after the African American Intellectual History Society just released their Prison Abolition Syllabus, which highlights prison organizing and prison abolitionist efforts, from the 13th Amendment’s rearticulation of slavery to current resistance to mass incarceration, solitary confinement, and prison labor exploitation. Several UC Press titles are featured on the syllabus, which you can browse below:

The United States has the highest incarceration rates in the world. Just yesterday TIME released an incarceration report stating that 39% of prisoners should not be in prison. In the book Incarcerating the Crisis, which is included in the syllabus, and in a recent post on our blog, author Jordan Camp argues that the roots of the carceral crisis to the rise of neoliberal capitalism.

And overcrowding, violence, sexual abuse, and other conditions pose grave risks to prisoner health and safety, coupled with the mistreatment of prisoners based on race, sex, gender identity, or disability. Terry Kupers, author of the forthcoming UC Press book Solitary (publishing Fall 2017), discussed ADX-Florence, the “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado known for its use of solitary confinement as a way to manage mental illness, with WNYC this week while law expert Hadar Aviram, whose book Cheap on Crime is also included in the syllabus, recently spoke with the Los Angeles Times about how California’s promises to speed up the death penalty are impossible to meet.

Tens of thousands of prisoners are held in long-term isolated confinement in “supermax” prisons and similar facilities. The devastating effects of such treatment, particularly on people with mental illness, are well known.

In addition to the above listed titles, we recommend the following titles to round out your reading:


Measuring the Bangkok Rules

This post is published prior to Human Rights Day (December 10) and after the American Society of Criminology conference (November 16 – 19). #ASC2016 #HumanRightsDay

by Barbara Owen, co-author of In Search of Safety: Confronting Inequality in Women’s Imprisonment

The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders or the Bangkok Rules outlines a human rights approach to the management of women in prison. In the United States, most prison operational practice is based on a version of civil rights; the Bangkok Rules and other international instruments are based on human rights- a very different approach. While few US prison system rely on a human rights perspective, the rest of the world has been more open to the human rights approach with its emphasis on the respect and dignity of all persons, regardless of their legal status.

As researchers who study women in conflict with the law know, women in prison require a separate approach than those designed for men. Despite their small share in prison population, the number of women prisoners worldwide has significantly increased at faster rate than men over the past decade. Across the globe, women prisoners share common background which shapes their pathways to prison. Many have similar histories of abuse and trauma, limited opportunity to education and work. Some have substance abuse, mental and physical health problems. Without appropriate support and gender sensitive treatment, women prisoners are at risk of re-victimization in prison settings and reoffending.

Author Barbara Owen (bottom row, 3rd from right) with Thailand Institute of Justice and program attendees.
Author Barbara Owen (bottom row, 3rd from right) with Thailand Institute of Justice and program attendees.

Since 2008, I have had the enormous pleasure of working with the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) in developing, implementing and measuring human rights through in women’s prisons. This post outlines the work I was privileged to develop in August of this year. The Bangkok Rules also requires UN member states (which are mostly countries) to collect survey and profile data on women in prison. To date, surveys that I developed with my colleagues at TIJ have been administered in almost all the Southeast Asian countries.

Author Barbara Owen speaking in front of Thailand Institute of Justice program attendees on Bangkok Rules.
Author Barbara Owen speaking in front of Thailand Institute of Justice program attendees on Bangkok Rules.

Based on the Bangkok Rules and my on-going research on imprisoned women, I was part of a team that designed a two-week program training program that aimed to provide guidance and practical knowledge on translating the Bangkok Rules and other human rights instruments into practice. The program was delivered to team form 12 different countries, most were from Southeast Asia, with additional participants from Kenya and Sri Lanka. Using polling software, I developed a Self-Assessment process that provided immediate feedback and spurred discussion among the 20 participants. In addition to rating their compliance and progress toward implementing the Bangkok Rules and other relevant human rights instruments, the self-assessment process structured discussions of challenges and solutions of gender-sensitive prison management, sets priorities, and helps to develop a preliminary Action Plan.

The Self-Assessment process and the overall training was an enormous success. These pictures provide a glimpse into this program. Cambodia has invited us to a follow-up conference next year. I have long been discouraged about the progress of US prison systems to implement a gender-responsive approach to managing women’s prisons. My work with the Thailand Institute of Justice has given me new hope that prison systems can incorporate both human rights standards and gender-sensitive management practices.

Owen.InSearchOfSafetyMy ASC presentation, “Measuring the Bangkok Rules” will describe the survey research and the Self-Assessment process. Come on by Wednesday morning and hear about this very exciting work. I also invite readers to look at additional work around the Bangkok Rules conducted by the TIJ and another partner in this work at Penal Reform International.


Barbara Owen is Professor Emerita at California State University, Fresno and co-author of In Search of Safety: Confronting Inequality in Women’s Imprisonment alongside James Wells and Joycelyn Pollock.