Since I make my living writing cheery little comedies about women who get shafted by men, I was fascinated by women convicts who'd been set up by their mates. I began to research the subject, interviewing dozens of women prisoners in the State of New York who were doing time for everything from kiting checks to murder, and before long I had to revise some of my assumptions
I had been right to think that the number of women in prison has increased 138% in the last decade due largely to their choice of drugs. (When self-esteem flags, poor girls do crack; middle-class girls do anti-depressants.) And I had been right to suppose that the other major reason women end up in jail is that they hang with the wrong men. But I had been wrong to assume that it was usually a simple matter of bad men leading weak women astray. Most of the women I spoke to picked crime-prone men because they got a buzz off their bad boy ways. And once Badness turned them on, they were hooked.
As I found more and more women who still wrote regularly and fondly to the guy who had used them as a mule in a drug deal or introduced them to the joys of crank and the fun of prostitution, I came to realize that even though nonviolent women don't belong in jail and it's counterproductive to separate them from their kids, turned loose most of them will run out and play dupe to some bad dude all over again. So I have a modest proposal: Instead of locking these women into a costly "correctional" system that doesn't correct them, why not send them straight to my privately owned, custom-designed Bad Boyfriend Bootcamp?
Operating like a cross between The Betty Ford Clinic and Outward Boundonly for women who don't have enough money for a good lawyer (let alone airfare to spas) Bad Boyfriend Bootcamp (BBBC) empowers women prisoners to "Just Say Noto crime."
First off, all campers have to admit to the group that a bad boyfriend is an addictive substance, an object of fixation that keeps you busy and directs your attention away from your real problems, of which women in prison have lots. More than four in ten women jailed report prior physical or sexual abuse, and in 1986 roughly 22% of women in prison said they had been sexually abused prior to the age of 18. (1)
Women saddled with life histories like these tend to suffer from a disorder of the self-esteem lobe of the brain that normally (among women of the upper middle class) is treated over a period of years via a costly mixture of talking cures, psycho-pharmaceuticals and best-selling memoirs. But Bad Boyfriend Bootcamp can accomplish the same thing in a matter of six inexpensive months, using a combined program of aversion therapy, positive reinforcement and really good haircuts.
In the toughest first leg of the training, campers would be conditioned to associate unpleasant things like cleaning toilets and eating Spam with prison tattoos, guys who use "Bitch" as a term of endearment and street-smart stud-muffins who see their parole officers more often than their kids.
We would then provide our campers with a pre-printed list of excuses to memorize so that they would be prepared for the times when guys nicknamed "Triggerhappy" asked them to drive to the 7-11 for "some instant cash." The excuses would be drilled into them during color wars, where teams would get points for how loud they could yell: "Two-six-eight-ten; I will not rob an ATM!" and "I'm gonna cheer, I'm gonna root, for the balding guy in the wrinkled suit!"
Thus would begin the difficult re-education process that would eventually lead to marriage to a nice Jersey CPA named "Jeffrey" instead of a "business arrangement" with a pimp known as "Bad2Chix."
Each woman would be given a button to wear that says, "Gee, I'd rather not be a felon today." We would teach them, impulse by impulse, to prefer ploddingly reliable men to the Harley Hog hotties who ask them if they'd perhaps like to insert a condom full of cocaine into one of their body cavities and try to cross an international border with it.
Trained surrogates would be brought in to take the women on dates and show them what nice men act like. Bootcampers would learn to respond sexually to lines like, "Would you like to touch my Phi Beta Kappa key?" "Being with you really swells my portfolio" and "Let's discuss our relationship." They would also be taught ways to check up on men's employment histories, previous marital bonds and behavior toward dependent children.
In time, graduates of Bad Boyfriend Bootcamp would become so tough and their street rep would be so unappealing to deadbeats and users that they would be avoided by the men they now find impossible to resist. Like a street pusher who has a name because he's done hard time, graduates of my program would be identified as the kind of women who take no prisoners.
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