PRISON IS NO PLACE FOR FEMALE OFFENDERS
1. This is not an apology for the fairer sex. Nor, would I venture to argue against the imposition of penalty on the erring female specie. My principal advocacy is to persuade criminal justice administration, specially the legislators that imprisonment is not a responsive and effective penalty for female offenders.
2. Any offense or violation must, as a rule, be given the corresponding punishment. It is not only a truism or principle in law but a logical and valid social policy. Not to mention the fact that it is sound, rational and reasonable. My point, however, is in the implementation of the legal consequence to be applied. More so, if at all it is to be applied on female offenders.
3. In the Philippines, the female takes the back seat when it comes to aggressive social posturing. They are never central in any activity that would require daring, risks or perilous jobs. They are culturally consigned to assist their man, or their son, for that matter, in any endeavour that requires support. It is on this background where they are most vulnerable. Unlike the man, their counterpart, they are traditionally the one in charge of home. Their absence could wreck havoc on the family and it goes without saying, could jeopardize the future of children.
4. Commission of crimes however does not determine gender when it comes to gravity. The imposition of penalty by the judiciary likewise does not discriminate nor differentiate, neither distinguish nor single out whether it is male or female. At times, crimes may even aggravate depending on sexual category.
5. Crimes committed by anyone, the female in particular should be dealt with and that’s imperative. My point is, if a female offender is to be penalized for a period of ten years, so be it. That is what the law in the interest of justice demands. But it should not be spent nor served under a regime of incarceration.
6. Imprisonment is never an accepted social procedure for women in conflict with the law. It is not only unfair, physically debilitating amounting to torture but ruthless and callous. It strikes at the heart of the family.
7. A female offender may be sent to community service. To work long hours in lieu of her misdeed, sin or felony. She may be required to serve or compensate for her wrongdoing or delinquency but this should be conducted outside of institutionalization. At the end of the day, she must be home. She must be with her brood. With her loved ones. Her family should never be a part and parcel of that which she must have to pay, although in reality or in effect, it may be for her love of family that made her commit a crime—directly or indirectly.
8. Penalty for female offenders may range from street sweeping to mandatory servitude in government hospices, communal stations or as attendants in such total institutions like leprosarium, tubercular facilities or mental health institutions for a period corresponding their penalty. They should be given stipend to sustain their fare and welfare but the remaining remuneration goes to government coffer to indemnify their respective victims.
9. In the event the female offender abuses or evades the responsibilities conferred on her as a matter of course, then she allows herself, as the judicial agreement should entail, to be institutionalized. That is, to enter the regime of incarceration. Until such an incident occurs, the female offenders should never be out rightly sent to serve time in prison.
10. What is it that makes prison anathema to a female inmate? Firstly, her biological make up. Unlike her male counterpart, where male prisons may be allowed to receive visitors within a liberal atmosphere (in Philippine prisons, there is such a thing as “stay-in”, where his visitor is permitted to stay overnight inside the prison camp even if occasionally), there is no such provision for female prison facilities. Secondly, the type of offenses. Mostly, she has committed victimless crimes—either her vulnerabilities or gullibility that coerced her into the commission of the crime or plain poor legal defence preparation. Only a few sector, and this includes the male prisoners as well, could well afford a good lawyer that would crusade to carry on justice in his or her name. And thirdly, her health—physical and psychological. Like any food, some are cooked using steam, others through pressure cookers and some through the grill. Corrections like cooking is not dedicated to spoiling.
11. There is also the matter of government appropriation in the subsistence of prisoners. On the whole, there are around 2,000 female prisoners serving time in two correctional facilities in the country (the major facility is situated in Mandaluyong City, Metro-Manila, the other, recently organized, is in Davao del Norte, Mindanao). Government subsistence for every prisoner is P 50.00 per head a day. If we have 2,000 female inmates subsidized by government at P50 per, that means P 100,000 day; or P 1M in ten days, or P4M a month. If the average period a female offender in serving time under institutional means is 8 years, that means 96 months, computed in earlier equation at P4M a month, that can easily be translated into a staggering amount of P384M (or P48M a year)! This amount did not factor yet the upkeep of the facility and the personal services that goes into the administration of the prison camp.
12. And who are these female prisoners in the first place? Up close, they are your ordinary housewives, maids, grandmothers or kid sisters. Torn against a cruel environment and a demanding culture, they are mixed into a fray, confused in a convoluted relationship and their response, quite expectedly, is a run against the law. Government response on the other hand is harsh—imprisonment as if failure is a hostile act that requires instant death or agony for a prolonged period.
13. Historically, any offense is dealt with exacting consequence. While the male are oftentimes the object of organized vengeance, the female receive the cruel end of the treatment. The males for quite a time became fodder to entertainment as when pitted against a beast or trained gladiator, while the female was to be sent for enslavement. Until civilization improved even in the matter of applying criminal justice principles. Man as well as woman would receive almost an equal treatment in the scale of the penalty matrix. Both man and woman, those who defied public order, are sent to the calaboose to repay society for the felony committed.
14. The symmetry of punishment however equal and fair in the estimation of justice does not project an ideal response. The effect does not correspond correctly to the expected result. Man after the regimen of incarceration, depending on the prison condition, either becomes incorrigible or, as most cases are, changed positively. The woman, on the other hand, whatever is the prison condition, are psychologically harmed and impaired already. The female are socially alienated and their mind set are mutilated beyond healing. This is not what corrections to a specific sector is all about in the first place.
15. One may hate a person, a woman specially, when she commits a crime. Like any offender for that matter regardless of gender, a violation is a violation. A misdemeanour is a misdemeanour. A transgression is a transgression. If that would be the standard, the world view so to speak, then prisons is for all the law breakers—no segregation necessary at all. But we have prisons for males, prisons for females and we know fully well the whys and wherefores. At the start therefore there is the difference. This difference is what this paper aims to contend and claim.
16. Prison, as the title suggests and which this crusader wants to project, therefore, is no place for female offenders.