Tag Archive: Vikki Law

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…)

Seven Ways to Revolutionize Childcare and Build All-Ages Movements

Childcare at the 2009 City from Below conference in Baltimore.

Childcare at the 2009 City from Below conference in Baltimore.

From Waging Nonviolence/ By Victoria Law

Last week I was part of Queering Abolition, a panel discussion on queer and trans prison advocacy and abolition. One of my co-panelists was Susan Rosenberg, a former political prisoner who spent 16 years in prison before her sentence was commuted by outgoing President Bill Clinton. The panel was in the auditorium of the City University of New York Graduate Center. Being on the panel was exciting — not just because I was part of a dialogue around prison advocacy and abolition that centered on trans people, but also because it reminded me of how far I’d come and how much community and movement support have enabled me.

I first saw Susan Rosenberg in that same auditorium about 12 years ago. She had been released from prison the year before and was part of a day-long conference on incarceration. My daughter was not quite two years old and, like many political events — both then and now — there was no child care. The organizers told me that I was welcome to bring my child and so I did.

She had a fantastic time. My daughter, after nursing for a bit and sitting in my lap for an even shorter bit, wriggled out of my arms and explored the back rows of the auditorium. The seats were like those in the movie theater, springing up when no weight was applied. She was entranced with these seats, pulling them down and letting them flip back up with a clatter. She did this again and again, much to the amusement of the handful of 20-somethings around us. I kept one eye on her and one eye on the stage where, far below, Susan Rosenberg, Laura Whitehorn and two other important people in the prison movement talked about women and incarceration.

When the audience erupted into applause, my daughter stopped and applauded along. “Yaaaay!” she cheered, as she clapped her tiny hands together over and over.

(more…)

Seven Ways to Support People in Prison

For many people behind bars books are a sanity-saver.

For many people behind bars books are a sanity-saver.

From Waging Non Violence/ By Victoria Law

I recently received a letter from a person asking how to get involved with supporting women in prison. The return address was from a small town that takes up 2.4 square miles and has approximately 14,000 residents. As far as the letter writer knew, there were no organizations — or even individual advocates — working around these issues nearby. The letter reminded me that not everyone is blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) enough to live in a city with opportunities to get involved in advocacy or direct support.

So what are some ways to support people behind bars if you’re not near any existing organizations or grassroots groups? Here are seven places to start: (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…)