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Learning from China’s Policy on Women in Prison

Whether inmates are imprisoned for felony DUI offenses, vehicular manslaughter, drug crimes or other offenses, those who are housed in America’s jails and prisons are often subjected to unconscionable treatment. These treatment issues are often especially challenging for women.

The New York Times recently noted some stark differences between the U.S. prison systems and those in China. For example, in the United States, if a female prisoner is pregnant and about to give birth, shackles are often used during the birthing process. This inhumane practice doesn’t happen in China.

Based on the latest statistics, nine percent of the American inmate population is female. China’s inmate population is only six percent female. This disparity is largely due to programs China has implemented which take into consideration the unique needs of pregnant, nursing and primary care-giving mothers.

For example, breast-feeding and pregnant inmates may either be released on bail or allowed to serve their terms under a kind of house-arrest. The same is true for mothers who are the primary caregivers for their young children. In addition, when female inmates are interrogated, Chinese law mandates that a female law enforcement official must be present during the process.

China is notorious for its human rights abuses. When women in the Chinese prison system fare better than many women in the U.S. prison system, it should be clear to lawmakers and the general public that serious changes need to be made for the benefit of American female prisoners.

Source: The New York Times, “Women in prison fare better in China,” Didi Kirsten Tatlow, Sept. 11, 2012

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