From the Editor
by Paul Wright
The one area of American life where no one is calling for gender equality or parity is that of mass incarceration. Prisons are and remain a tool of social control aimed primarily at men, who make up 91% of all prisoners. The number of women in prison has dramatically increased over the past 25 years in raw numbers, though their percentage as the overall portion of the prison population has remained roughly 9%. Of course 9% of 1.1 million prisoners in 1990 is a lot lower than 9% of 2.3 million prisoners 25 years later. With prisons being designed and structured to manage and destroy men, it is no surprise that women prisoners are generally treated as little more than an afterthought with little in the way of specialized programs, treatment and most importantly medical care. As one critic commented, “they paint the prison pink and call it a women’s prison.”
Since our inception, PLN has reported on the gender biases and discrimination that women prisoners face. This month’s cover story continues that tradition and sadly illustrates that even as things change, they remain the same. Probably the best thing women prisoners have going for them is that, as a population, they are serving relatively short sentences and there are very few women lifers, unlike their male counterparts. But the negatives include a much higher risk of being raped and sexually abused by prison and jail staff, and more medical needs to be neglected by their captors; further, over 50% of women prisoners were the primary caretakers of minor children before they were incarcerated.
In late 2014, the state of Pennsylvania enacted a statute aimed at silencing prisoners in that state by subjecting them, as well as media outlets that publish their writings or commentary, to lawsuits filed by crime victims. PLN was among the plaintiffs that filed suit challenging the statute and on April 27, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Connor held the statute was unconstitutional and enjoined it. We are reporting that ruling in this issue of PLN along with an article by Mumia Abu-Jamal, our long time columnist (since 1992), whom the statute was specifically designed to silence. We are grateful to the attorneys at Pepper Hamilton LLP and the Pennsylvania ACLU for representing us in this matter. The state has not yet indicated if they plan to appeal the ruling to the Third Circuit.
Our Stop Prison Profiteering campaign continues to grow. If you or your family is tired of being gouged by money transfer fees, the prison telephone industry, high commissary prices, etc., please tell us your story and provide details of how you or your family has been exploited. Those with Internet or phone access can visit www.stopprisonprofiteers.org to upload a video or call the toll-free phone bank at 1-877-410-4863 to leave a voice message. The more details we have about your experiences with corporate vultures like Global Tel*Link, Securus, JPay, EZ Card, Aramark, Trinity, Access, Union Supply, etc., the more we can do about ending their abusive financial practices. Let others know about our Stop Prison Profiteering campaign and ask them to tell their stories, too.
Finally, we continue to rely on your support to publish Prison Legal News as well as advocate on behalf of prisoners and their families. Please send a donation – any amount helps – and ask other people to donate. Enjoy this issue of PLN and encourage others to subscribe.
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