A new study from NPR and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University finds that across the United States, women prisoners, who are the fastest growing prison population in the country, are disciplined far more harshly and frequently than male prisoners, sometimes for actions as ordinary as playing Scrabble.
NPR reports that the study analyzed 15 states and found that in 13 of them women were disciplined sometimes two or three times more often than men for vague infractions. In California, for example, women are punished for “disrespect” and get twice the disciplinary tickets for it. In Iowa women are three times as likely to be punished for disruption.
All of these tickets add up for women prisoners which can result in a loss of privileges behind bars like phone calls to family or being able to buy menstrual products. The study finds that there were also discrepancies in terms of the severity of punishments, with women in some states being confined to their cells or other areas of prison more often than men.
It seems like old school sexism is the culprit here; a woman talks sarcastically to a guard and it’s immediately seen as hostile. A former assistant director at the Department of Corrections in Illinois tells NPR that women prisoners are also generally a lot more communicative than men and that when they see problems in prison they want to fix them. But male corrections officers basically write it off as women being bitches. “The first thing that they’ll tell you is: ‘These women are so difficult. Gosh, they’re a pain,” she says. “I would rather work anywhere but here. They always want to talk to you. They won’t take no for an answer.’”
Ah, because it’s much easier to yell about how bitches be crazy and pass out punishment tickets then actually listen to inmates.