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Women in Jail

June 19, 1988

The conditions in the women's section of the Orange County Jail in Santa Ana, as described by the ACLU lawyers (June 7), is so degrading and "horrendous" that surely every human rights organization will be up in arms.

How would it have played in Moscow had it been trumpeted, by Amnesty International and civil right advocates, that in California nonviolent women were shackled in leg irons and handcuffed, with wrist chains thrown in for bad measure?

California used to be a model in prison reform that some of us in the field held up as a bright spot in the dreary landscape of penal failure, (an exception to the) 80% recidivism rate for most other states. How low has California fallen, if this illegal sex discrimination is a sample? Right into the Dark Ages!

Not only is sex discrimination illegal, but cruel and unusual punishment has also been outlawed by the highest court in the land.

When male prisoners, living in the next building, are allowed visits from their children, while these poor women are denied such visits, that is not only sex discrimination but also surely punishment of these young children for a crime they didn't commit.

Sex discrimination is hard at work, even in the area of a maximum-security lockup. Although they are not a security risk, the women are all dumped into maximum security, whereas the men are able to win minimum security. Anyone who has ever worked in the prisons will know what a dreadful difference there is between those two categories.

I am thankful, as a woman, that Richard Herman and the lawyers who appeared with him are fighting against this shameful injustice and illegal behavior, but where does this leave the rest of us? Does silence lend consent?



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