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Justice Policy Journal - Volume 7, Number 2 - Fall 2010

(ISSN 1530-3012)


From the editor

By Elizabeth Brown, Ph.D. and Randall G. Shelden, M.A., Ph.D.

From the Editors

Welcome readers to another issue of the Justice Policy Journal.  This one is special for us because we honor the life and work of a valued colleague, John Irwin, who passed away this past January. We have included, with permission of the editors of The Critical Criminologist, an obituary written by Stephen C. Richards, James Austin, Barbara Owen, and Jeffrey Ian Ross.

Co-editor Shelden has some warm personal memories of John Irwin, dating back to the early 1970s when he began his graduate school education.  Here is his personal recollection of John Irwin:

It was around 1973 when I began reading Irwin's first book, The Felon (published in 1970. I recall writing copious notes for every chapter in one of those old "Secretary's Steno Book." Almost 40 years later not only do I still have this book but I have the steno book with all the notes in it!  Early in my career I began to utilize this book frequently in my own writings.  I subsequently read every other book John wrote and have continued to rely upon his insights in every book I have written.  I first met John in person when I was doing some research in the late 1980s on the subject of jail overcrowding. I vividly recall this meeting as it was in the office of the National Council of Crime and Delinquency in San Francisco. At the time of the meeting I brought with me his newest book, The Jail, which he autographed. Subsequently we continued to meat at annual conferences of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) and once had dinner in San Francisco (along with Dan Macallair).  I recall one conference in particular, in Nashville, when we had lunch. This is when I learned that John spent his teenage years in the city of San Fernando (a suburb just northwest of downtown Los Angeles), which happened to be the same town I grew up in!  His house was literally a short walk from where I lived, although several years apart. What a small world it is. Whenever I went to the ASC meetings I would make an effort to find out where John was, stopping people I saw to ask if they had seen him.  I always managed to find him. Sometimes it was not hard at all, since he was usually on a panel. Last year at the ASC conference in Philadelphia he was on the program as a discussant and when I went to the session and found that he had not shown up I knew something was wrong. I received an e-mail not too long after the conference informing me that he was seriously ill. I knew the end was near so I was not surprised to learn of his death.  I am writing this the week before the ASC meeting in San Francisco.  There will be an empty seat at many panels where John would have sat and I will find myself wandering around the conference hotel looking for him.  The ASC conference will never be the same without him.  In fact, criminology will never be the same without him, but researchers and students will continue to benefit from his knowledge.  I truly miss him.

This issue has an excellent group of articles, two of which relate to women's issues.  Another paper relates to the continuing controversy over laws pertaining to sex offenders and another relates to the issue of one the many "collateral consequences" of mass incarceration, namely that of the effects of parental incarceration on children.

In the first paper Charlene Simmons and Emily Danker-Feldman report on a case study of San Francisco child welfare adoption files from the years 1997 and 2007 to examine the connection between child welfare services and the criminal justice system.  Specifically they examined dependency court hearings during which the court was deciding whether to detain the children, impose reunification requirements, or terminate parental rights altogether. Few of the parents attended the hearings and few had attorneys representing them.  In every case, the mother was the primary caretaker.  Most of the mothers were African American and most had a criminal record (about 70%) and more than half had been incarcerated.  The authors demonstrate one of the major "collateral consequences" of the over-incarceration of minorities, namely the children left behind.

Next, G. Geltner, a professor of Medieval History at the University of Amsterdam, brings a unique historical perspective to women in prison (he wrote a book on the subject called The Medieval Prison: A Social History).  It was during the late Middle Ages when Europe began to construct prisons.  The status of women in those days was similar to what exists today -- that of being a marginal and vulnerable population.  In these early prisons "prostitutes shared the same quarters with propertied middle-class debtors, violent peasants, and misbehaved domestic servants of all ages and ethnic backgrounds."  Yet then, as now, they constituted a very small percentage of the total prison population -- around 3.5%.

Barbara H. Zaitzow provides keen insight into the high rates of mental health problems for women prisoners and the tendency to use of psychotropic drugs to control them.  Pulling together some hard-to-find data from various reports (e.g., Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International), Zaitzow reports on the growing problems facing these women as they try to cope with a number of mental health issues and how difficult it is for them to get needed treatment.  She concludes that "Providing psychotropic medications to 'troubled' inmates may appear to be the sole strategy to treating mentally ill female inmates, due to convenience and limited therapeutic resources."

Finally, Richard Tewksbury and Travis Humkey provide some fascinating data collected from a survey of 238 schools school principals in Kentucky concerning their knowledge of a sex offender registration and notification laws (SORN) in Kentucky.  The law (passed in 2010) that requires a RSO parent to obtain written permission in order to be on school grounds for any event. They asked these principals whether or not they would allow registered sex offenders to attend ten different situations involving their children (e.g., parent-teacher conference or a school play).  The results of the study highlight some of the many "collateral consequences" of sex offenders laws recently passed in this country.

Psychotropic Control of Women Prisoners: The Perpetuation of Abuse of Imprisoned Women

By Barbara H. Zaitzow

Adding to the multifaceted and interacting challenges that many imprisoned women endure are the high rates of mental health problems that are rising to a level of "special report" status and discussion (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006).  Here, the mental health problems of vulnerable women are exacerbated by the stressful nature of prison and the questionable administering of psychotropic drugs to incarcerated women.  The purpose of this paper is to explore the use and potential abuse of the drugging of women "doing time" in American prisons.

Prohibiting Registered Sex Offenders from Being at School: Assessing the Collateral Consequences of a Public Policy

By Richard Tewksbury and Travis Humkey

The present study evaluates the collateral consequences of a legal prohibition imposed on individuals subject to sex offender registration and notification (SORN) The focus of this study is on one Kentucky state law (KRS 17.545.2) which requires that RSOs obtain written permission  to be permitted on school grounds. A systematic random sample of public school principals in Kentucky were surveyed regarding how likely they were to grant permission to RSOs to be on school grounds for ten different school events. Results show that all types of schools principals are unlikely to grant permission, regardless of event or school type.

Parental Incarceration, Termination of Parental Rights and Adoption: A Case Study of the Intersection Between the Child Welfare and Criminal

By Charlene Simmons

In this case study, we examine the intersection between the child welfare, judicial and correctional systems based on a review of all San Francisco child welfare adoption files from the years 2007 and 1997, when the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act was enacted.  We found that less than a fifth of all parents, and only two percent with a history of incarceration, attended the dependency court hearings in which their children were detained, reunification requirements imposed, or parental rights terminated.  Most were not represented by attorneys.  In all cases, mothers were the primary caretakers.  Nearly 70 percent had criminal records and 54 percent had been incarcerated.  Eighty seven percent had substance abuse issues and many also had mental health issues.  They were disproportionately African American.  The majority of their children were detained at birth due to illegal drug exposure.  On average, mothers with more than one child in foster care had had 3.3. children removed from their care. Improved access to the courts; priority substance abuse and other programming; intensive, supervised case management services, and; accountability for court-ordered service results could prove cost effective and beneficial for these mothers, their children and society.

No-Woman's Land? On Female Crime and Incarceration, Past, Present, and Future

By G. Geltner

The perception of penitentiaries as male institutions dates back to the late Middle Ages, when urban governments across Europe began constructing prisons as cogs in their growing machineries of justice. Already then, female incarceration contrasted sharply, intentionally, and symbolically with that of men, rendering women prison "incasts" in ways that parallel their marginal and vulnerable situation today. And yet few of the major pains of incarceration afflicting modern female prisoners seem to have been common to the experiences of their medieval predecessors. What made the difference, and how can it inform approaches to female inmates and female criminality in general?

In Memory of John Irwin

By Stephen C. Richards, James Austin, Barbara Owen, Jeffrey Ian Ross

Keywords: adult corrections, parole, reentry, victims

Posted in Volume 7

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