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Thug Life: Jail Experience by Gender

The jail experience, by its very nature, is not a pleasant one. Based on the regulations in most jails that have to be followed, the experience should be uniform for men and women. However, the jail experience differs between men and women. The rules and regulations are the same for both men and women but because men and women handle pressure and isolation in very different ways, so does the jail experience. Today, we're going to discuss the differences in how men and women experience the jail system.

Social Systems

Men, by their very nature, tend to internalize their emotions in order to not show weakness. This behavior is often amplified while in jail. This leads to more aggressive behavior and a sense of every man for himself. Bonds are created between inmates but they're often very fragile. Social groups that form in men's prisons tend to be more out of necessity than common interests or caring. This is why gangs are so prevalent in the prison system.

Women, on the other hand, are typically more nurturing by nature. This manifests itself in a strong community feeling in jail. Women tend to be more supportive of each other in order to make their time easier. Bonds between women that are made in jail are much more likely to last on the outside than the bonds made between men.

Interaction with Authority

When talking to a local guard for the county jail a few months back, I asked him "What's the biggest difference between being a guard for men vs women?"

His answer thoroughly surprised me. "If I tell a man to tuck in his shirt, 99% of the time, he'll tuck in his shirt without question. If I tell a woman to tuck in her shirt, first she asks why, then she lists every single other prisoner who doesn't have their shirt tucked in and wants to know why she has to."

Jail Experience Differs from Men to Women

Men tend to be more compliant in general, but are infinitely more likely to react violently when not in compliance.

Women are also compliant but tend to question authority more before complying with orders. However, when women don't comply, it's very rare for them to react violently.

Recidivism Rates

How likely are men to re-offend and become incarcerated again compared to women?

The answer is nearly double. In the first 2 years after release, men are almost twice as likely to re-offend than women. At around the 2-3 year mark these rates tend to even out for both men and women, with men maintaining a 10% higher rate than women throughout.

This can be linked to many things but the biggest indicators may come from the points that we talked about earlier. The social system for men encourages violent behavior and can cause men to become "institutionalized." This can cause men to have a very hard time adjusting to the freedom of the outside world and leads to them re-offending and becoming incarcerated once again.

Jail is never a positive experience, but that experience can differ greatly from person to person. This divide is even more apparent between men and women. Statistically, women are more supportive of each other, are less violent, and are less likely to end up back in jail than men.

Larry Nowak

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