infuencing Public Policy with Gender Bias

Most mornings I wake up to the sound of voices. No, it isn’t the children who get up before me – #2 Offspring thinks there is only one 11:00 in each day and it is always after sunset – but some discussion or other on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

I have learned to screen out the BBC bias in favour of government spending over personal spending and state ownership over private ownership, but this morning I heard something that made me think again about the bias at the BBC.

Two women were discussing the imprisonment of women, and one was stating that because women self-harm more frequently than men when they are in prison, women should either not be sent to prison at all or be sent there very rarely.

I fail to see what difference the reaction to one’s surroundings makes to penal policy. If a person is a persistent problem, for example constantly being involved in crimes such as breaking and entering, to the extent that the public needs protection from that person, why should their sex matter? Is it any more relevant to public policy than the costs of commuting are taken into account in calculating one’s income from employment after taxation. I would contend that the answer in “no”.

One thing was said that did strike home is that 50% of female prisoners have been in care as children. I am uncertain of the statistics for men, but I believe that men who were in care as children are over-represented in the prison population, but neither of the BBC’s talking heads considered that if there is a need to reduce the amount of time people spend in prison, there is a clear and present need to review what goes wrong in the system in which children are dealt with when they are in the care of the local authority.

I wonder why neither of the interviewees, nor Sarah Montagu the interviewer wanted to go there. I suspect that many of the problems would be traced back to poor management by people who are seen as friends of the BBC, people like Margaret Hodge, who was formerly the councillor in charge of social services for the London Borough of Islington Council, and others who have had similar positions as both practitioners and as political masters.

One has to wonder whether the bias is solely a gender bias, although it was displayed as a gender bias in the discussion in question, or whether other bias is also involved. On the other side of The Pond, there is a push to encourage African-American children to do better in school, while at the same time the extra funding for Native American schooling on the Indian Reservations has been cut. Is this a case of a minority who will not vote the way the powers that be want them to is having a punishment administered? In the UK, in the run up to the 2010 election, the government spent heavily in marginal seats it hoped to retain while cutting spending is seats which were seen as safe for the Conservatives.

If anything, it brings one to the old adage that power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. If ever there was an argument against the replacement of the family by the state, then the results on those who have been sentenced to spend time in the care system as children is surely the proof for the argument.

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About UK Fred

A Christian who cares that the church in Britain conforms to societal demands, rather than transforms society. I am particularly concerned with the lack of support for marriage and the acceptance of divorce in the church. I also care that the body politic in Britain seems to be corrupt and in need of a good shake-up.
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4 Responses to infuencing Public Policy with Gender Bias

  1. Jon Gleason says:

    Hi, Fred. You may remember that I really, really dislike incarceration as a significant component of a penal system. But you are absolutely correct that gender should not be an important factor here.

    We have this stupid idea that the impact on the perpetrator, and even on the perpetrator’s family, should play a significant role in determining the punishment. But that’s all wrong.

    We’re supposed to have equal protection under the law. That means the victims of female offenders should have the same protection as victims of male offenders.

    • ukfred says:

      Hi Jon.

      If we go back to the theory behind crime, we find that most criminal activity is economic in origin. This means that prison has the consequence of preventing gainful economic activity in the life of the perpetrator, so making it more likely that a released prisoner will return to a life of crime.

      To this extent, I would support a criminal justice policy that used fines and compensation for victims as the major instrument of punishment, with alternatives of community service for those who are unable to pay a fine, such as the people who use the proceeds of their crime to fund a drug addiction.

  2. Fred; you say you “fail to see the difference the reaction to one’s surroundings makes to penal policy”. Are you sure? With either male or female prisoners should the offender’s vulnerability make no difference?

    I think you are pulling a punch. Surely you want to say that being female looks suspiciously like being a get out card. In other words this is about feminism and this is what feminism is all about.

    In considering what percentage of prisoners were in care as children you need to factor in that the very fact of their being taken into care would have been that they had troubled families – it may well be that being in care was a lesser rather than the greater factor in their offending.

    • ukfred says:

      Hi Christopher

      If we start taking the offender’s reaction into account, then there will be a lack of equity in sentencing, and if we have to take account of the reaction of the offender to the sentence that they have to undergo, then any sentence handed down by the court would be provisional.

      We also need to remember that Ernest Saunders, who was given early release from prison on account of his dementia, is the only recorded case that i am aware of in which dementia has reversed as a result of the environment in which the offender is placed.

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