Yet crime is rarely approached as a gender issue and that’s something that the National Conference for Men and Boys aims to highlight.
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We’ve been looking at the statistics in recent years and asking why 95% of the prison population is male? Is it because men are naturally criminal? If that was the case surely all classes of society would be equally represented in prison.
When you look beneath the statistics you see that boys who are fatherless, in care, excluded from school and have literacy problems are more likely to end up in prison. Have a look at these statistics:
- 90% of men in prison have at least one mental disorder
- 90% of young male offenders were excluded from school
- 60% of male prisoners come from fatherless homes
- Half are alcohol dependent
- 20%-30% of prisoners have learning difficulties
- 27% of male prisoners spent time in a care home
These aren’t simply men and boys who ARE problems, these are boys who HAD problems and we failed to use those problems as an opportunity to work with these boys and help them find a way to flourish and fulfill on their potential.
At last year’s conference we invited the charity Safeground to come and share the work they do helping men in prisons. Last month Safeground held their 2013 symposium on the theme “It’s A Man’s World” which you can read about here.
According to Safeground traditional ideals about men “can lead to men feeling under a great deal of unrealistic pressure, with many becoming involved in violent, criminal and anti-social group behaviour as a result of wanting or needing to fulfil stereotypes and expectations that demand aggression, fearlessness and risk taking. “
Their symposium included a debate between Guardian commentator Ally Fogg, who also made his first visit to our conference last year, and Professor Brigid Featherstone.
Fogg challenged the idea that there is a “crisis of masculinity,” saying:
“Young working class and minority ethnic men have lost an empire and not yet found a role. There is something grotesque about blaming young men for their failure to step up to the plate when the plate has been snatched from under their feet.”
You can read a summary of Fogg’s points in this debate on his blog here.
Featherstone highlighted that boys and young men at risk of offending need help and support, saying: “Poverty, oppression and ill health are written all over their bodies……early years are no more important than adolescence….what of the young people written off because of this focus?”
One organisation that doesn’t write off young men is the excellent abandofbrothers who have attended every previous men and boys conference, including the local pilot in 2010.
The rites of passage charity works with young men and teenagers in need of support and guidance including young offenders and prison leavers.
Their chief executive, Nathan Roberts, wrote in the New Statesman this year:
“Men are perpetrators of over 90 per cent of violent crime in the UK. If you believe, as abandofbrothers do, that “hurt people, hurt people” and that violence is a manifestation of prior psychological woundings on the part of the perpetrator rather than the expression of an inherent evil, then this too points to the disadvantage of men and boys.”
From Men’s Rites to Men’s Rights, and the focus of activists in this area tends to be on the unequal ways male and female offenders are treated. The Conservative MP for Shipley, Phil Davies, delighted men’s rights campaigners last year when he attacked the different ways that men and women are treated by the criminal justice system. He told parliament:
“There appears to be sex discrimination in the sentencing of offenders, but the people being discriminated against are men not women….men are treated more harshly by the courts than women. For every single category of offence, for all ages and in all types of court, men are more likely to be sent to prison than women.”
To read more about what Phil Davies had to say see the article at A Voice For Men—UK MP Takes a Stand For Male Prisoners.
Ally Fogg also picked up on the issue in The Guardian in March this year saying in the comment piece “Yes, reduce prison sentencing , but not just for women“.
This prompted Glen Poole, from the conference management team, to post a comment under the article:
“Interesting to note that problems where women are in the majority (eg primary carers) or in the minority (eg prisoners) are considered women’s issues. Problems where men are are in the majority (eg prisoners) or in the minority (eg primary carers) are not considered men’s issues.
“When men are in the majority – murder victims, workplace deaths, prisoners – it’s just considered normal – cos hey, men commit crime, get killed and fall off ladders – typical men! So we have a situation where some people are interested in prison reform and some people are interested in gender equality.
“Unfortunately – and here comes a generalisation to make a point:
- those who are interested in prison reform aren’t interested in men’s gender equality
- those who are interested in men’s gender equality aren’t interested in reform – they tend to want women to get harsher sentences to make it all equal
“So our challenge is to persuade prison reformers to get interested in men and to get men’s campaigners interested in reform. And probably more importantly get those with a vague interest in prison reform and men’s issues – much more interested in prison reform and men’s issues.”
All of this provides a rich foundation for productive debates and discussions about making a crime a men’s issue at this year’s Third National Conference for Men and Boys.
We welcome all viewpoints and perspective so if you want to be part of this conversation then make sure you book your ticket online today here: GET YOUR TICKET NOW!!!