More women are being put behind bars. Fewer should be

ONE of Mexico’s newest prisons allows inmates to receive a conjugal visit every week. The rooms set aside for these visits at Coatlán del Río have clean beds, showers and toilets. Any married inmate can use them, as can same-sex couples, if they tied the knot in a Mexican state where gay marriage is allowed.

Alas, the conjugal rooms are barely used. This is a women’s prison and their menfolk are a bit unreliable. “Women in prison are often abandoned,” says an experienced guard at the prison. Of the 1,400 inmates, how many receive regular conjugal visits? “Only one,” she sighs. Another inmate was sentenced for smuggling drugs to her husband in a different jail. He was released and promptly found another woman, says the guard.

Serious criminals are nearly all male, which is why less than 10% of the world’s prisoners are women. But the number of female prisoners has soared by 50% since 2000. This is worrying. Women in prison are far less likely than men to…

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