Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: What's behind the dramatic increase in women prison inmates?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Feb 22, 2015 3:19 PM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, February 23, 2015:

The U.S. incarcerates a greater percentage of its citizens than any other country in the world.  Americans are 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world's prison inmates. An increasing number of those prisoners are women. The mandatory minimum sentences instituted during the "war on drugs" in the 1980s have resulted in an increased number of Americans - many low-income minority women - behind bars for drug offenses.

Dr. Jill McCorkel from Villanova University appears on Monday's Smart Talk to discuss her book: Breaking Women: Gender, Race, and the New Politics of Imprisonment, in which she interviewed incarcerated women from east coast prisons, including some in Pennsylvania. The book examines the reasons behind the huge increase in the incarceration of American women during the past 25 years.

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Dr. Rita Shah

Also appearing on the show is Dr. Rita Shah, who studies whether and how rehabilitation programs and parole benefit prisoners in their transition out of prison.

Our discussion Monday explores why so many American women are being incarcerated, what rehabilitation is being offered to them, and what can be done to improve the system of mass incarceration.

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  • camplarrye img 2015-02-23 09:05

    Oh, the irony (or coincidence?) of this Smart Talk story following the "Mama Bears" story just on Morning Edition. Will the children of the Mama Bears end up like the women in this story?

  • Robert D Colgan img 2015-02-23 09:22

    The US, and PA prison system is a source of income for lawyers, police, judges, courtroom staff, probationers, prison staff, ancillary staff, bail bondsmen, psychologists, etc etc---------

    with the end result that if crime suddenly disappeared all those people would be out of employment.

    Crime is "maintained" the better to guarantee income for all those who make their paycheck from those who are pursued, captured, prosecuted, incarcerated, probated.
    The justice/penal system is based on PROFITS-----not on eliminating or reducing crime.

    Putting more women into prison only expands the profits.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-02-23 09:33

    Mary writes:

    Given the current look at these laws, in particular the drug laws have you seen a shift in public policy as it relates to women. what is it ?

  • jjones img 2015-02-23 09:50

    Privately run prisons are also publicly owned entities in that you can own stock in them. So the bottom line is that it is important that these prisons show a profit for their stockholders. Also, I understand when a person is brought to court, he/she may have to pay a lot of fees for their stay (room and board), not simply bail. If they can't, they stay in prison longer to "work off," so to speak, these fees.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-02-23 09:55

    Kathy writes:

    What is clear here is The American's systemic problem with addiction. Dealers kill others. These women are not good moms nor are men good dads. Children end up becoming them. Education and Treatment for drug addictions are key. But where is the accountability for the inmate when they are out. Public housing should be conditional on sobriety. Drug testing must be allowed if taxpayers are to pay. Psychiatric services are already limited and very costly to the taxpayer. The top 10 6 figure salaries for state employees 3 of them are psychiatrists running programs. We need to change treatment for these individuals with clear expectation for lifestyle changes conditional on their road to a life of success. People are still their worst enemies even after given help with alternatives.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-02-23 10:28

    Dr. Rita Shah's photo exhibit "Prison or Slave Castle" is currently on display at Elizabethtown College.