men and womenI faced an interesting problem in writing my soon-to-be-released novel, Delaney’s Hope. Delaney hopes to set up a prison camp in Northern Wisconsin that would really change people. Should his prison be for men only, for women only or for both?

“Are you our of your mind?” one of my friends asked me when I suggested the ‘both’ answer. “If you’re talking about a male prison, those places are brutal, killing camps and women don’t belong there.”

My friend is right, if we’re talking about what a prison is today. But think about it, schools and universities are for men and women. Business is integrated as are construction jobs. The army has accepted women for many years now, and soon they will be eligible for dangerous front-line positions. Everything is integrated except prisons.

What if prisons were not the brutal places they are today? What if they were about rehabilitation, instead of punishment? And don’t women help civilize a place?

Of course there would be exceptions. Some men and some women would have to be incarcerated separately.

female guardThe prisons we have now are strange, sterile, unreal, Un-American and Un-Canadian. Most prisons have male and female staff, but the ideas, the ambiance, the programs and the approach to inmates are all male.

Some female guards try to be macho, they take on all the bad featuresmale prison guard of men and ignore the great talents that women have.

What is your opinion?  Should prisons be integrated or should they be separated by sex as they are now?

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  1. I think it would require a major revamp of the prison system before introducing this idea. As things stand, my opinion is No.

  2. Catana says:

    Any male-dominated institution is dangerous for women. It doesn’t have to be as brutal as the cliches (which are sometimes all too true) about prisons. Women are *always* in danger from institutions that are run by/dominated by men. Idealism is fine, until it runs up against reality.

  3. Joanne says:

    My realistic side tends to agree with the comments above. I know that violence in prisons increases as a result of competition for young men who are used for sexual favors. I can only imagine what it might be like if women were thrown into the mix. And these people are not even the ones who are convicted for sexual offences. Power and control runs rampant within prisons. Unless there was very strict protocols that prevented the “owning” of women, and that there was a way to kick out those who were obviously not complying, I do not see it working. Having said that, I do believe just about anything is possible, if done with a lot of forethought and care for the potential consequences.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      Thanks, Joanne. Yes, I am proposing a new kind of prison, not what we have today. A prison based on rehabilitation, not on punishment. The Mexican Government has an island, Ilas Maria, I think it’s called. Off the Pacific coast of Mexico. Inmates live with their families in small houses. Guards, the same.

  4. judith says:

    I would have thought separated, as when i have been to visit prisons, the mixing of the sexes is such a difficulty. But, after reading your article, I must in fact reconsider. The problem is not so much mixing perhaps, but the lack of life skills, inappropriate dependencies and emotional immaturity that is frequently part of the whole decision making skill set. I guess that happens whether you mix the sexes or not. Better have Birth Control handy though.

  5. Aina Baron says:

    It is a nice idea,but prisons are not normally ‘nice’. In the long run it would require some lengthy trial periods but would be best to begin with separate venues for each sex and if the general idea were to take hold it could happen somewhere down the road. Women are not even safe in womens prisons these days and are often ‘used’ by the male guards.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      Thank you for your comment, Aina. How sad — male guards ‘using’ female inmates. As a teenager, I was working as an electrician’s helper. Our job one day was at the State Mental Health Hospital. I was working in a ditch, but I stuck my head up to get some air, and I saw a cook taking advantage — using — a female inmate. I couldn’t do anything, but I never forgot the situation. Your words brought it back to my mind. How sad.

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