Yesterday in Georgia, Women in Prison Regained Some of Their Dignity
The Root by Angela Helm
Oct 2, 2019
On Tuesday, the Georgia Dignity Act (House Bill 345) went into effect in all women’s prison facilities in Georgia, giving more than 3,800 women locked up in the state access to basic necessities like sanitary napkins, as well as affording them the decency of not being chained while pregnant or giving birth.
The bipartisan bill, written and by Georgia State Reps. Sharon Cooper, a Republican who represents Marietta, and Democrat David Dryer of Atlanta, was signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in May (this, the same man who signed the so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill, which certainly doesn’t afford women who are pregnant the dignity of autonomy over their own reproductive healthcare choices, but I digress.)
Grateful for the signing the Children's Best Interest Act, and to Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton for her support. IF this is fully implemented, with resources for family-based treatment and training for all stakeholders, it could be one a huge factor in reducing incarceration in Illinois.
Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work
The New York Times By Melanie Deziel
As the number of women inmates soars, so does the need for policies and programs that meet their needs.
Over the past three decades, the number of women serving time in American prisons has increased more than eightfold.
Today, some 15,000 are held in federal custody and an additional 100,000 are behind bars in local jails. That sustained growth has researchers, former inmates and prison reform advocates calling for women’s facilities that do more than replicate a system designed for men.
“These are invisible women,” says Dr. Stephanie Covington, a psychologist and co-director of the Center For Gender and Justice, an advocacy group based in La Jolla, Calif. “Every piece of the experience of being in the criminal justice system differs between men and women.”
At the most basic level, women often must make do with jumpsuits that are made from men’s designs rather than being cut for female bodies. And standard personal-care items often don’t account for different skin tones or hair types.
It’s not just vanity: What drives some prisoners to mix their own makeup or tailor their uniforms is the need to maintain their dignity in a situation that does little to protect it.
In US Prisons, Women Disciplined More than Men for Minor Offenses
WTTW by Evan Garcia
March 28, 2019
Women in prison are disciplined more frequently for minor offenses than their male counterparts in some state prison systems, including those in Illinois, according to an investigation published by NPR and the Chicago Reporter.
The yearlong investigation by Jessica Pupovac, a digital content producer at WTTW who served as lead reporter, and Kari Lydersen of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, included interviews with formerly incarcerated women, past and present corrections officials, experts and academics. The reporting team also analyzed data from prison systems in 15 states.
Pupovac said they found “overwhelming” evidence that “women are disproportionately disciplined for lower-level offenses” such as “talking back or having attitude, being disruptive or disrespectful.”
Should a pregnant person ever go to prison?
Quartz by Zoe Schlanger
April 6, 2019
Siwatu-Salama Ra knew it was time to go to the hospital. As the early stages of her labor began on a day in late May 2018, officers placed handcuffs on her wrists and lead her into the transport van. She arrived to the hospital and to a delivery room where, inside, armed guards would wait all day and night and watch her give birth.
It was awful, but not as bad as it could be. Many other women in her position are taken to the hospital with handcuffs, chains across their waists, and shackled to the floor of the transport vehicle. Then they are shackled to the bed by their ankles while they give birth. Ra on the other hand was not cuffed in the delivery room.
The doctors and nurses in the maternity ward at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan, an hour west of Detroit, were used to taking patients from the nearby Huron Valley Correctional Facility, Michigan’s only women’s prison. But Ra’s arrival was a little different; her incarceration a few months earlier was covered by the local news. Hospital staff kept coming into her room to see her, to ask if she needed anything. One nurse said she just wanted to hug her.
There was a trade-off for the lack of restraints, though, she thinks today: increased security once she got to the hospital. Those armed guards—sometimes four, never less than two, always armed and wearing bullet-proof vests—stayed in her delivery room the whole time.
“She was my ultimate punishment.”One of the officers in the hospital room was particularly jumpy. She would clutch her gun every time the doctor or nurse walked in, Ra says. “When she heard the door opening, she would jump up and have her hand on her gun,” Ra remembers. “And I’m sitting in my bed, holding my stomach, you know?” What was the officer worried about, she wondered—that she was going to run away while in labor? It was a bigger insult than the handcuffs in the van, to have that woman with that gun in the room. “She was my ultimate punishment,” Ra says.
Ra, now 27, went to prison on March 1, 2018, when she was six-and-a-half months pregnant with her second child. Her first child, Zala, was two, and up until that day the mother-daughter pair were attached at the hip. Before prison, Ra worked as an organizer for a local environmental non-profit in her hometown of Detroit, where she and her mother, Rhonda Anderson, are both well known in the tight-knit activist community. Detroit is a city where families in majority-black neighborhoods are inundated by a constant mist of industrial pollution and where water shutoffs are so frequent the UN has called it a human rights violation; the circumstances have birthed a vibrant environmental activism community with Ra’s family more or less at the center.
Beyond Prisons: Taylar Neuvelle on Knitting in Prison
Taylar Nuevelle joins the Beyond Prisons podcast to talk about her experiences with knitting while incarcerated. In particular, we talk about her love of knitting, the space it created for her in prison, as well as how it was used to punish her.
Ms. Nuevelle is a writer and advocate for justice-involved women. In 2017 she created a writing program at the Central Treatment Facility (CTF), the women’s jail in DC, “Sharing Our Stories to Reclaim Our Lives.” She is credited for creating the concept of the “Trauma-to-Prison Pipeline” for women and girls.
While incarcerated at the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA/CTF) D.C. and in the Federal Bureau of Prisons from 2010 to 2015, Ms. Nuevelle volunteered by providing legal advocacy for fellow incarcerated women. Ms. Nuevelle’s writings have appeared in The Washington Post, Talk Poverty, The Nation, the Vera Institute for Justice Blog and Ms. Magazine online. Ms. Nuevelle holds a B.A. in Literature.
First-of-Its-Kind Study Fills in Decades-Long Blank About Pregnancy in Prison
Rewire News by Victoria Law
In a new study published this week, researchers are filling in the blanks left by outdated, decades-old data about pregnancy behind bars. This is a black hole that government agencies have failed to fill since 2004—even though the growth of women’s incarceration continues to outpace that of men.
Four percent of the world’s women live in the United States—but more than 30 percent of the world’s incarcerated women live here. Despite this dramatic disproportion, little remains known about the gender-specific health conditions among incarcerated women.
On Thursday, the Pregnancy in Prison Statistics (PIPS) project—the only systematic study of pregnancy outcomes in prisons across the United States—published its first set of findings in the American Journal of Public Health. PIPS was launched by Advocacy and Research on Reproductive Wellness of Incarcerated People (ARRWIP), a group of researchers examining the intersections of reproductive justice and criminal justice. While the researchers conducted a pilot study in 2015, they collected the data for their new study from 2016 to 2017.
North Carolina denies transgender inmate's request to transfer to women's prison
ABC Eyewitness News
LILLINGTON, N.C. --
A transgender inmate convicted of insurance fraud is serving time at a men's prison in North Carolina despite repeated requests to transfer to women's housing.
The News and Observer reports 37-year-old Kanautica Zayre-Brown is believed to be the state's only post-operative transgender prisoner. The state recognizes Zayre-Brown as a man and by birth name, which was legally changed.
Imprisoned as a habitual felon in 2017 after completing a surgical transition, Zayre-Brown is serving up to 9 years and 11 months. Zayre-Brown showers and changes in front of other biologically male inmates, despite having breasts and sex-reassignment surgery. Zayre-Brown said being assaulted is a constant fear.
Investigation into inmate’s suicide faults Maryland women’s prison’s treatment of people with disabilities : Washington Post
Investigation into inmate’s suicide faults Maryland women’s prison’s treatment of people with disabilities
Washington Post By Lillian Reed
An investigation into Maryland’s only prison for women following the 2017 suicide of an inmate found the facility violated the constitutional rights of people with disabilities who are placed in segregation and did not take sufficient steps to “prevent future harm.”
The investigation, released Friday by Disability Rights Maryland, reviewed the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women and its role in the death of inmate Emily Butler, who was found dead in her cell from an apparent suicide on Nov. 12, 2017. The investigative report details several findings and recommends changes on how the prison can better handle inmates with disabilities.
Disability Rights Maryland is the state’s designated authority under federal law for conducting investigations into allegations of abuse and negligence for people with disabilities. The group, along with Munib Lohrasbi of the Open Society Institute of Baltimore, launched a review after Butler’s death in segregation.
How to Support Cyntoia Brown
Colorlines by Ayana Byrd
December 10, 2018
Sentenced to life in prison at 16 for killing her would-be rapist, Brown is not eligible for parole until she is 67.
In the unanimous decision, the state court ruled that juvenile offenders facing life, like Brown, must serve five decades before being considered for parole.
Brown is in the Tennessee Prison for Women for shooting Johnny Allen in 2004. At the time of the incident, she was a 16-year-old who had been forced into prostitution. Allen, 43, picked her up at a Sonic drive-in and drove her back to his house, which had guns on display. Brown maintains that she killed him with a gun from her purse in an act of self-defense. Prosecutors in her trial countered that she went to Allen’s house to rob him.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive