Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Women in prison

I often do not blog about my studies and work as I feel it is something that people will not be very interested in. Today though I realised what a huge part of me is taken up by work and study and how important to me it is and I want that to be reflected in my blog.

As you may know I am a law student and am starting my final semester on Monday, excited and very scared! For the past 6 months I have been working on my thesis so that hopefully in March I will be able to graduate with honours. I wanted to share my thesis with you so that you could see my interest in socio-legal problems and maybe learn something new about me.

In Australia the only state or territory that has Human Rights Legislation enacted is the ACT. My thesis looks at how this legislation impacts on women in prison in the ACT. To do this I have examined material on prisons throughout Australia and identified issues that effect female inmates. The issues are wide ranging, complex and inter-related. They range from drug and alcohol addiction, assualt histories, mental illness and self harm, visitation rights, punishment within the prison, rehabilitation, work and education oppurtunies and the list goes on. These issues will then be explored in the ACT prison to see if having legislation to protect human rights ammelirotes these issues for women.

In Australia the statistics about women prisoners is pretty terrifying and reflects as a society our inability to deal with the issues these women face. To give you a quick run down:
- 62% of incarcerated women are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol
- 73%  suffer from a mental illness including depression, anxiety disorders and personality disorders. Furthermore there is a high rate of self - harming behaviour including suicide attempts.
- 85% have suffered from sexual, physical or mental abuse during their childhood or as adults.
- 31% are indigenous which is highly disproportional considering the Indigenous population makes up 3% of Australia's overall population
- 50% are mothers of dependent children

The reason that this research is important to me is the oppurtunity the ACT has to make a change in the way women prisoners are treated and the issues that effect them are dealt with in the prison. It is important that the prison system realises the different gendered issues that women prisoners face in comparison to their male counterparts and that their prison experience reflects this. Rehabilitation is an important aspect of any inmates time in prison and reduces their liklihood of reoffending. Therefore rehabilitation has to be as effective as possible and take into account the many different aspects that effect women's offending behaviour.

In the event this post leads to a discussion please keep it respectful. If this is something your interested in I am more than happy to answer any questions (not that I am an expert but can try to answer questions to the best of my ability) and I hope that you have enjoyed learning a little about what I spend a large majority of my time doing.

Reference: Justice Action


  1. OMG MEGAN! I can't believe I didn't know this about you, and/or that no one has referred us to each other before!!

    I've been working in prisons and jails and with children of incarcerated parents for . . . 7 years now? For the past four years (I'm starting my 5th tomorrow), I've been teaching kids at a public high school who have been severely impacted by incarceration (either they've been in and out of juvenile hall, or their parent(s) have been incarcerated). Prior to that, I taught creative writing, collaborative writing, and Art in Response to Street Violence at various prisons in the U.S.

    I work for a nonprofit called Community Works that has all kinds of programming for people incarcerated and affected by the prison system. We have internships for post-release women, workshops in the jails, etc. etc. There's a huge focus on Restorative Justice, which, as I'm sure you know, has been incredibly successful with juveniles in New Zealand.

    Most relevant to what you do, I'm working on a book project now through Voice of Witness about women who've suffered abuse/neglect while incarcerated!

    I need to stop now in order to avoid writing a novel on your blog, but we need to exchange addresses and/or emails pronto! Here's my email to start with: Amazing!!

  2. Wow, I didn't know you were in law school. Thanks for sharing that little tidbit, very interesting. Good luck!

  3. This is amazing! One of my majors was criminology, all of this stuff is super interesting! I love that you are passionate about it megan - you can just tell by the way that you write! xox

  4. wow go megan! you should be so proud of yourself at this point! thanks for sharing a little bit more or yourself! i like learning new things about people!

  5. I understand why your thesis is taking up so much time and effort, it sounds like your research can actually make a difference! I know a lot of people who felt university was little more than a waste of time when it came to projects and research, and I know it depends on the course that you study, but your work seems of real importance, and y'know, substance. (Sorry if this doesn't make sense, I've only been up for half and hour)

    I've never really thought about prison or the impact it can have on inmates or their families, let alone the problems encountered by men vs. women. I guess it's because prison is something that has never affected me directly. I know that there are a lot of problems with the prison system in the UK (and probably most other countries, if not all, to be fair) but I've never thought about or looked into it at all.

    Your post has made for a very interesting, if not a little distressing, read. Food for thought indeed. I hope you get on well with the rest of your research and your work makes an impact. I'm sure it will! x

  6. Ahh wow! It is lovely to see what you are working on and passionate about. I knew you were doing law of course but it's interesting to see what you are focusing your thesis on.

    I hope women prisoners are treated better and I think it's so wonderful that you are focusing on that.


  7. you should definitely write more about what you do. it's a great way to shed light on the important work you do for women out there who need advocates!

    was just about to say that you and claire need to connect STAT but i see that has already happened!

    really looking forward to hearing more from you on this megan!

    best of luck with your last semester!

  8. what a thesis! this is all really interesting to read and think about. thanks for sharing it with us readers meg! i do hope that it gets passed and the female and male prisoners are treated differently, especially after reading all the statistics.

    <3 <3
    - L

  9. Wow. This is fascinating! It's all a little mind blowing. I wonder how the statistics compare in the United States??

    Best of luck. I'm sure you'll excell with flying colors!

  10. I am so glad you shared Megan! Never would have pegged you for a lawyer but you are certainly on your way to being one with heart. I am so impressed with your interest in social justice.

    You may be interested to learn more about FASD (or perhaps you already do) or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. This is an area in Canadian justice that is quickly gaining high interest as it impacts such a large proportion of inmates and juvenile offenders.

    I don't think your interests or studies are boring at all. <3

  11. Megan, I had no idea you were a law student! First of all, congrats on all of your hard work so far and best of luck as you continue!

    I think your study is absolutely fascinating and I think it's so sad that women are suffering so much in prisons. We all know that prisons in the US are in serious need of reform as well, so I appreciate your take in Australia.

    Seriously, don't stop - I love these posts!

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  13. Great info! I lectured at a male juvenile prison quite regularly last year and it was a really interesting experience.

    I think the drug and alcohol issue is the biggest as a lot of the mental issues are causes by alcohol and drug addiction. Rehabilitation is absolutely important but having first hand experience with offenders I really think prevention is the best solution.

    Good post! x

  14. wow, I didnt realise you were studying Law - go you! I had no idea that the numbers would be so high - 62% addicted to drugs seems a huge percentage!

    Its so odd how Claire mentioned Restorative Justice as Thomas works on that team for the Youth Offending service in Leeds and also my Dad used to be a prison officer in a male prison over here and to make it weirder my Mum works for Probation.

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