Entries by Debra Fitzpatrick

Women in Prison: A Small Population Requiring Unique Policy Solutions

It is easy to overlook the presence of women in our prison system. After all, in Minnesota, women account for just over 7% of the prison population, a mere 737 individuals. And the same is true across the country, with women comprising just 7% of the estimated 1.53 million people held in state and federal correctional facilities. Given these small numbers, the path to reducing mass incarceration is generally framed through its impacts on men. Fewer researchers work on questions such as whether the reasons women are imprisoned are unique, whether their rehabilitative needs are different, or whether the experience of prison impacts their outcomes differently than it does men.

Food Stamps and Food Rights

Recent federal proposals to gut SNAP benefits and states’ calls to add paid employment and drug-testing as eligibility determinants are nothing new. They reflect longstanding concerns with dependence, waste, and fraud, as well as anxiety that black people, indigenous Americans, and immigrants might rise above abject status. They also reveal a widespread and longstanding suspicion of poor people—particularly poor women and especially poor women of color—as undeserving.

Why Testosterone Ranges Should Replace Sex-Segregation in Title IX Sports

In the waning months of the Obama Administration, the Departments of Justice and Education advised schools and colleges that gender identity discrimination was to be considered a form of sex discrimination covered by Title IX (the federal sex non-discrimination law that applies to all federally-funded educational programming, including competitive college sports). Within a month of taking office, Trump’s administration rescinded that compliance letter, in a stroke erasing any explicit protection for transgender student-athletes. Perhaps, though, where the Obama Administration really went wrong was in not going further to name sex-segregated sports as a source of “gender identity” discrimination.

Will Conservative Women Flourish in the Trump Era?

Donald Trump owes his presidency to women. Many political observers had assumed that Trump’s boorish behavior would alienate women at the polls and, while exit polls showed that Trump won just 42% of them to Clinton’s 54%, Trump secured a majority of the votes of white women in the 2016 election. One of the strongest contingents in this bloc comprised outspoken, conservative women leaders who honed their political skills in the Tea Party—a group that I profile in my book Tea Party Women.

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Aging in the Eyes of Others: Black Girls Aren’t Given A Chance to Be Girls, with Painful Consequences

n a daily basis Black girls experience the world differently than their peers. Data show that from the schoolyard to the classroom, to the streets and into the juvenile justice system, adults treat Black girls differently than their white peers. Black girls are vulnerable not only to stereotypes, biases, and perceptions based on their race, but as importantly, based on their gender. Recognizing the significant impact that adult perceptions can have on children, researchers at the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality set out to examine for the first time whether adults view Black girls as possessing qualities that render them more like adults—and less innocent—than their white peers.

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Rethinking “Trans Panic Defense” Policies

The National LGBT Bar Association put forth a resolution in 2013, urging federal, state and local governments to outlaw the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense strategies, which attempt to reduce sentencing for a person accused of killing an LGBT person. These strategies are used by defense attorneys to argue that their clients’ crimes were not pre-meditated but a reaction to an unwanted sexual advance from an LGBT person or to the “discovery” of a person’s trans status, thus they warrant lighter sentencing. Such tactics have been in play as mitigating factors in sentencing since the 1960s. Today, California is the first state to have banned them; the National LGBT Bar Association is hopeful that other jurisdictions will follow in its footsteps. On May 31, 2017, the Illinois House of Representatives approved a Senate bill banning the defense. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner. A similar bill was introduced in the District of Columbia in February 2017.