Tag Archive: feminism

Reproductive Health Care in Women’s Prisons “Painful” and “Traumatic”

specuFrom Truth Out/ By Victoria Law

It was Kim Dadou’s second day at New York’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. As part of the prison’s intake process, she was brought to the prison’s medical unit for a gynecological exam and pap smear.

“We were brought down three or five at a time,” she told Truthout. It’s like an assembly line. They rush you in and rush you out. That in itself is degrading.”

To add to that feeling, the gynecologist did not explain what he was doing or why. “He didn’t talk to you except ‘Open your legs’ or ‘Scoot down,’ ” she recalled. As he examined her, however, he commented, “You have a very nice aroma.”

“I wanted to die,” Dadou said nearly 24 years later. “I was like, ‘This is prison? This is what I have to look forward to?'”

Nearly 5 percent of people who enter women’s jails and prisons are pregnant. While incarcerated, they face a host of challenges to safe and healthy pregnancies, including inadequate prenatal care, lack of food and vitamins, and, in many states, the threat of being shackled during childbirth, sometimes despite protective legislation.

But what about the 95 percent who are not pregnant? As Dadou’s experience demonstrates, women routinely face reproductive health care that is inadequate and dehumanizing. A recent report by the Correctional Association of New York, a criminal justice policy and advocacy organization, charged that “reproductive health care for women in New York State prisons is woefully substandard, with women routinely facing poor-quality care and assaults on their basic human dignity and reproductive rights.” But poor quality is not limited to New York – across the country, incarcerated women have reported “care” that ranges from ignored complaints to sexual violations during exams. In an egregious example of what passes for reproductive health “care” in prisons, several hundred people in California’s women’s prisons were coerced or tricked into some form of sterilization between 2006 and 2010. (more…)

Why Americans Don’t Care About Prison Rape

alcatraz_prison_block_cc_imgFrom The Nation

In June of 2012, the New York Times “Room for Debate” feature considered whether or not convicted youth offenders should be treated differently than adult convicts in the penal system. Those in favor of trying some youth offenders in adult courts included a victims’ advocate, and an attorney from the conservative Heritage Foundation; those against included an inmate at California’s San Quentin prison, and a human rights activist. The victims’ advocate and the attorney from the Heritage Foundation talked about extreme cases of violence and the benefits of stern consequences. The inmate and the human rights activist talked about rape.

“The suicide and sexual abuse rates of younger prisoners are higher than those of the physically mature,” Gary Scott, the inmate, noted: “how can rehabilitation be possible in such a dangerous environment?” Scott was incarcerated at age sixteen.

T.J. Parsell, the human rights advocate, put it like this: “In early 2003, I testified on Capitol Hill with Linda Bruntmyer, a mother from Texas whose 17-year-old son was incarcerated after setting a trash bin on fire. In prison, he was raped repeatedly. He later hanged himself inside his cell. I felt a special bond with Linda, because I too had been raped in prison at 17.”

Taken together, the accounts of the carceral system featured in the Times’s roundtable on youth offenders span the entire American conception of prison itself. On one hand, prisons are understood as the terminus at the end of a long line of injustices adjudicated by a cold bureaucracy. On the other hand, American prisons are infamous for their brutality, especially when it comes to sexual violence. Being sent to prison is, in this sense, not the conclusion of the criminal justice process but the beginning of long-term torture.

That prisons routinely house thousands upon thousands of instances of sexual exploitation and rape is at the very least tolerated, and at most subtly appreciated as part of their punitive purpose. Our collective meh at the bracing reality of prison rape may be partially premised on the fact that the problem seems contained; but like most severe sicknesses, it only appears that way, and not for long. (more…)

Women in Solitary Confinement

womensolitaryFrom Truth Out/By Victoria Law

Victoria Woodrich had had enough. On November 11, 2014, six weeks before her 36th birthday, she tied a sock around her neck; she tied the other end to the top of her bed structure. By the time staff found her at 3:30 that afternoon, she was dead.

Woodrich, known as Shortybang to her friends, had been in prison for more than a decade and at Illinois’ Logan Correctional Center since its 2013 conversion to a women’s prison. Earlier that month, she was placed in the prison’s segregation unit, where women are locked in their cells nearly 24 hours a day.

“She kept telling me she wanted to die,” recalled Nicole Natschke, who was in segregation during that time. “She told me that everyone would be better off without her.” Three days later, the woman awoke to screaming. That was when she learned that Woodrich had hung herself. (more…)

Against Carceral Feminism

“Prison Blueprints.” Remeike Forbes / Jacobin

From Jacobin / By Victoria Law

Relying on state violence to curb domestic violence only ends up harming the most marginalized women.

Cherie Williams, a thirty-five-year-old African-American woman in the Bronx, just wanted to protect herself from her abusive boyfriend. So she called the cops. But although New York requires police to make an arrest when responding to domestic violence calls, the officers did not leave their car. When Williams demanded their badge numbers, the police handcuffed her, drove her to a deserted parking lot, and beat her, breaking her nose, spleen, and jaw. They then left her on the ground.

“They told me if they saw me on the street, that they would kill me,” Williams later testified.

The year was 1999. It was a half-decade after the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which deployed more police and introduced more punitive sentencing in an attempt to reduce domestic violence. Many of the feminists who had lobbied for the passage of VAWA remained silent about Williams and countless other women whose 911 calls resulted in more violence. Often white, well-heeled feminists, their legislative accomplishment did little to stem violence against less affluent, more marginalized women like Williams.

This carceral variant of feminism continues to be the predominant form. While its adherents would likely reject the descriptor, carceral feminism describes an approach that sees increased policing, prosecution, and imprisonment as the primary solution to violence against women.

This stance does not acknowledge that police are often purveyors of violence and that prisons are always sites of violence. Carceral feminism ignores the ways in which race, class, gender identity, and immigration status leave certain women more vulnerable to violence and that greater criminalization often places these same women at risk of state violence. (more…)

The Ex-Worker #28: Anarcha-Feminism, Part II

dont-try-to-break-us-well-explode-bFrom Crimethinc.

Back in Episode 26, theEx-Worker shared a panorama of dramatic stories from the lives and struggles of 19th and early 20th century anarchist women… but we didn’t focus much on their ideas. In the second episode of our three-part series on anarcha-feminism, we return our focus to the first generations of rebels who brought together anarchist and feminist currents, this time to explore their distinctive revolutionary visions. We survey the context of early revolutionary and feminist ideas, and the distinct perspectives of early anarcha-feminists on marriage, sexuality, economic and bodily autonomy, suffrage, revolutionary sexism, and strategies for women’s emancipation. The Chopping Block discusses Free Women of Spain, Martha Ackelsberg’s classic study of the Spanish anarchist women’s group Mujeres Libres. Listeners weigh in on sports, a special guest contributor offers a correction about indigenous resistance to fracking, and we begin a fascinating conversation on solidarity actions and anonymity amidst the news, event announcements, statements from political prisoners, and more.

Trigger warning: This episode includes a few passing references to sexual or domestic violence: nothing too graphic, but we wanted to give all of you a heads up. The references appear at 11:40, 35:50, 41:25, 1:04:50, and 1:33:44.

You can download this and all of our previous episodes online. You can also subscribe in iTunes here or just add the feed URL to your podcast player of choice. Rate us on iTunes and let us know what you think, or send us an email topodcast@crimethinc.com. You can also call us 24 hours a day at 202–59-NOWRK, that is, 202–596–6975.

Time to Speak Up: Women’s Prison Resistance in Alabama

tutwilerBy Victoria Law

Both incarcerated women and the U.S. Department of Justice agree: The Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Ala., is a hellish place. In a 36-page letter that the DOJ issued to the Alabama State Governor Robert Brentley in January, the agency declared, “The State of Alabama violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution by failing to protect women prisoners at Tutwiler from harm due to sexual abuse and harassment from correctional staff.”

Federal investigators found that, for nearly two decades, staff members at Tutwiler have sexually assaulted women and compelled them into sex to obtain necessities, such as feminine hygiene products and laundry service. Women who report sexual abuse are placed in solitary confinement, where they are given lie detector tests and are frequently threatened by other staff.

But while the DOJ’s letter — and conditions in Tutwiler — made headlines, less attention has been paid to the activism and organizing by women inside Alabama’s prisons. During the department’s investigation, for example, it received 233 letters from women currently incarcerated at Tutwiler detailing a host of concerns about the sexual abuse they’ve either personally experienced or witnessed. This figure does not include the letters that women have been sending to the Department of Justice and other government entities for years before the investigation was launched. When incarcerated, sending testimony letters is a potentially dangerous action. Women risked prison staff opening their letters and reading their complaints — and retaliating against them. Two hundred thirty-three women decided to take that risk. (more…)

Protest This Saturday @ Raleigh’s Women’s Prison

ncciwprotestWhat: Protest @ NCCIW

Where: North Carolina Women’s Correctional Institution

1034 Bragg Street, Raleigh, NC

When: Saturday, July 12th @ 5:30pm

Reports have come in that NCCIW has cut off all hot water and air conditioning for all of the women at NCCIW, but dogs being trained there do have AC. The Prison Books Collective supports this call out and we are asking people to come out in support of the women at NCCIW and  against the prison system that treats women worse than dogs.

Bring banners,drums, pots and pans, your voice, your love for those inside and your anger for the walls that separate us.

See you this Saturday!

From Facebook

This is a Public Announcement:
CALLING ALL PEOPLE OF STANDARDS (especially women):

***Please support this cause. This can NOT be tolerated. Calling ALL Citizens that care, Businesses, Organizations, Restaurants, Social Clubs, Motorcycle Clubs, Churches, Charities, Women in Action, People of Power Community Leaders and etc…

The necessary people have been notified and if ((THERE IS NO IMMEDIATE)) change in this situation IN RALEIGH, NC, its going down: Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 5:30pm….for more information (704) 465 8435…….just your Presence can change the lives of others. We do all things decent and in order…They are serving their sentences, but this is humiliation against women……DON’T SAY YOU ARE A MOVEMENT IF YOU AREN’T MOVING…

Cindy Crabb Reading From New Issue of Doris Zine

dorisThursday, May 29th at 7:00 PM
Internationalist Books and Community Center

Cindy Crabb will be reading from the brand new Doris 31, joined by local zine writers. Check back for updates on what other writers will be joining the event!

Cindy Crabb has been writing the influential, internationally distributed, autobiographical-feminist zine Doris since the early ‘90’s. In it, she explores subjects like consent, feminism, abortion, death, self-image, creativity, shyness, queer identity, addiction, punk and anarchism. Crabb is the editor of the zines Support and Learning Good Consent. She lives in South-East Ohio with her miniature horses, plays in the punk band Snarlas, and is a sexual abuse survivor advocate.

“…zines are a space where third wave feminist theory is emerging, and many scholars don’t recognize this because they don’t read zines. They should read Doris.” -Alison Piepmeier, Author of Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism (more…)

Mothers Behind Bars

An exterior view of The Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, in Wetumpka, Ala., Feb. 6, 2014. Corrections officers have raped, beaten and harrassed women inside the prison for at least 18 years, according to a Justice Department investigation, but the appetite for costly reform in Alabama appears minimal as conditions remain bad and prisoners are still fearful despite the investigation.

An exterior view of The Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, in Wetumpka, Ala., Feb. 6, 2014. Corrections officers have raped, beaten and harrassed women inside the prison for at least 18 years, according to a Justice Department investigation. 

By Samantha Sarra/ From Truth Out 

For mothers behind bars, the prison walls are held up with patriarchy, racism and poverty. Injustice is the mortar that holds together the bricks of the prison industrial complex and the handcuffs worn by female inmates are still tightly linked to the shackles of slavery and oppression.

A law passed by the New Jersey Legislature in February 1804 declared the children born to slave mothers to be “free” at birth, but they still remained bound as servants to their mother’s owners until their 20s. Two hundred years later and true abolition has yet to take place with the continued racialized criminalization of poverty and mothers behind bars, whose children remain bound to generational cycles of trauma and discrimination.

The legacy of children being entangled in the repercussions of legislation continues as Republican Governor Bill Haslam passed a law last month in Tennessee criminalizing women for their pregnancy outcomes. The law, which will disproportionately affect already marginalized mothers, would make it a crime to carry a pregnancy to term if you struggle with addiction or substance abuse. The punitive prosecution of pregnant mothers, charging them with criminal assault rather than creating better access to health care, was a move opposed by major medical associations, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the American Civil Liberties Union. (more…)

Free All Mothers! 2nd Annual Mother’s Day Anti-Prison Noise Demo

Mother s day flyer jpegFree All Mothers!

2nd Annual Mother’s Day Anti-Prison Noise Demo

– Sunday, May 11th,  3pm 2014

Meet at State St. and Bragg St. in Raleigh.

For Carpool Information Please email: durhamprisonbooks@gmail.com

– Spread the word!!!

We’ll be breaking the isolation and monotony of the women in the Raleigh Correctional Center for Women and the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women (a prison next door to RCCW). Together these two prisons have almost 1,500 women, almost all of them mothers. RCCW is the state’s largest prison with 1,288 women including women’s death row.

Bring banners,drums, pots and pans, your voice, your love for those inside and your anger for the walls that separate us. (more…)