By Dwight Hobbes
Jan. 1, 2013
I don’t know where to look for the list of the 171 inmates George Bush pardoned, but am willing to bet not many were women and that none had been locked up for defending themselves against abusive men.
For some reason, the female population languishing in penitentiaries behind assault and convictions who in reality were acting to safeguard their children or save their own lives just doesn’t seem to register as a public issue. Never has. What’s doubly disturbing, downright frightening is that it probably never will.
Look at a few facts. As of 2005, this country has the world’s largest prison population and highest rate of incarceration, more than 2 million people in prison or jail. Of that number, since around 1985, incarcerated female population increased by 400 percent. The report, “Women, Prisons and Change notes that the majority of those put away for violent crimes were convicted for defending themselves or their children from abuse. It also notes that the average prison term is twice as long for killing husbands as it is for killing wives, but the point is, if she was simply fighting off an abuser, a woman doesn’t belong behind bars, period. A more recent finding, cited in a New York Times editorial, attests that fully “90 percent of women imprisoned for killing men were battered by those men.” They literally are twice victimized.
This injustice is not merely an issue of statistics. These are flesh and blood, human beings who went
through pure hell at someone’s hands and then were sentenced to endure the incredible day in, day out torture being confined behind concrete and steel no good reason. It’s a miracle if they don’t lose all grip on their sanity, especially mothers who don’t know how safe the children they acted to protect are. You don’t need a degree in psychology to realize that once these women finish serving their wrongful sentences, there’s a strong chance they will return to society as basket cases. What can the chances be that they’ll ever be capable of sustaining a healthy romantic relationship? How much of a surprise would be if they got involved with someone and, maybe to even their surprise, found themselves ready to snap if the man so much as looked at them in the wrong tone of voice? How many, in fact, wind up saying to hell with men and, if they don’t confine themselves to celibacy, decide – whether they’re actually lesbian or not – to take up with female lovers (not that it’s any guarantee they won’t end up defending themselves again). Further, girls who see their mothers branded criminals and put away for fighting back against abuse run a great risk of becoming the next victim. They see the futility of defending themselves and are ready-made targets for heavy-handed men. If they wind up hanging themselves, jumping off a building or blowing their brains out, who on earth can be the least bit surprised? That Times editorial purports “to address the needs of these women — the victims of domestic violence [by supporting] three legislative initiatives to prevent women who have committed crimes against their abusers from suffering at the hands of their abuser and the state.” Those initiatives are about granting early release, making inmates eligible for work release and creating alternatives to incarceration. Well intentioned as these ideas are, they miss the mark. These women don’t deserve to be released early. They desperately need to be released now. They don’t deserve work release. They need to have their unconditional freedom. They sure don’t deserve an alternative to incarceration. They never should’ve been locked up and need to walk out of court free women in the first place.
If we are to see the much ballyhooed change that was Barack Obama’s rallying cry, one sign unquestionably has to be the rectifying of how horribly women’s civil rights have been violated by punishing them for doing what anyone in their right mind would do – defending themselves and their children. Accordingly, Obama needs to get busy developing writer’s cramp from signing pardons.
- Sata pardons 59 female prisoners (times.co.zm)
- Women Prisoners Endure Rampant Sexual Violence; Current Laws Not Sufficient by Eleanor J. Bader (zcommunications.org)
- Georgian President signs pardon decree (en.trend.az)