Running Head: THREE STRIKES AND YOU’RE OUT
In “Three Strikes and It’s Women Who Are Out”, Mona J.E. Danner argues that women suffer the most from tough-on crime, “three strikes” policies. She describes three “strikes” against women that such policies are responsible for. First, says Danner, policy makers who focus on budget-balancing and reducing deficits, while emphasizing a tough-on-crimes approach take money away from other programs which women may benefit from. Imprisoning people for minor crimes, therefore, sometimes means leaving less money for social programs designed to help the poor. Women and children are those who are hit the hardest. (Danner, 1998, p. 6)
Second, says Danner, women are also more likely than men to find employment at social service agencies. When funding for social services is cut, therefore, women suffer most, not only because they are recipients of such programs, but also because such programs give them employment. (Danner, 1998, p. 8)Third, she says, family members who take over the care of children or dependent adults when their parents or caregivers are in prison tend to be females. This puts extra financial and emotional burdens on these women. (Danner, 1998, p. 10)
Perhaps the most interesting and most overlooked of these is the third. Because women are the traditional caregivers in the home, they are often expected to take responsibility for family members who need care. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, between 53 to 68% of family or informal caregivers are female. (American Psychological Association, 2013) This can be emotionally and financially costly both to women who work outside the home and those who primarily work as caregivers inside the home. Those who work outside the home may need to take time off of work or even quit their jobs to be able to care for their new dependents.
Women who are already taking care of children or dependent adults may find that they must take time away from their other charges to care for those left in their care because of imprisonment. They may also give up personal time, which may increase their level of stress and could have a negative effect on their health. (Suthers, 2006) According to Kristen Suthers, PhD, female caregivers spend an estimated 50% more time with those they are responsible for caring for than do male caregivers. (Suthers, 2006)Furthermore, women are often tasked with caring for two generations at once – both children and adults. Those who are also tasked with caring for the dependents of others because former caregivers are imprisoned may find the added responsibility overwhelming.
Suthers notes that caregiving can be a rewarding experiences; however, she says, “can also have a negative impact on a caregiver’s health, even under the best circumstances.” (Suthers, 2006, p. 1) Up to 50% of caregivers, she says, exhibit symptoms of depression. Those who have the lowest incomes report higher instances of stress.
Suthers also reports that women who act as caregivers tend to have worse immune health, higher rates of cardiovascular disease, higher blood pressure and higher insulin levels than do individuals who are not responsible for the care of others. Furthermore, she says, 63% of caregivers over the age of 65 have a higher rate of mortality than do non-caregivers. (Suthers, 2006)
By taking a tough approach on drug crimes and imprisoning those whose violations are minor, policymakers can dramatically affect the lives of the women in the imprisoned person’s life. Doing so may mean that these caregivers have greater need of social service programs. They may need more help obtaining food and medical care, after having inherited more mouths to feed and more family members with physical difficulties or health programs. But because funding programs designed to increase drug-related arrests may take money away from these programs, women may find themselves in unenviable positions with little help from the government or the public.