All posts by Amanda Blaha

Opening the Blinds on Being Female in Prison

Our reality is a product of what we know and are permitted to know.  If all the events that take place behind prison bars were brought to light, there might be a call to action from normal, everyday America.

There is always the need to preface every story with – bad people go to prison and we need those facilities.  What about the girl who was raised differently than others, faced more struggles, maybe didn’t have parents looking out for her and got caught up is something, or the mentally ill girl, or the harshly sentenced or the falsely accused?  Those people are in there too, all mixed in together.  Even the ‘bad’ ones deserve a fair shot at being rehabilitated.  We are all one mistake or false accusation away.  It’s enough to make you think – it made me think.

The reality of life behind bars for women.  Think about it.  There is an inescapable vision of the vulnerability.  Walls that can’t be seen through.   The people behind those walls have no voice, their phone calls and letters, if they can afford them, are monitored. And, their families don’t often have the means to fight any injustice.  You don’t really want to risk ticking off the man who is your jailer.  What are your options?

If you could have seen through the bars of a prison one particular day, you would have seen a scene something like this.  “He asked me to pull my shirt up.”  She did it for him.  She lifted her shirt because she knew if she did, she could, “get stuff.”

At one prison in 2008, while a female inmate was showering, the officer on duty sent the other prisoners on her tier to lunch.  When the inmate returned to an empty cell, the officer entered and forced her to perform oral sex. The consequence for his actions were six months of low-level probation.

In 2009, a corrections officer blackmailed an inmate into having sex with him three times during the same day by saying that he had the power to send her back to prison at her next hearing if she fought him. Repeatedly, she told him she didn’t want to have sex.  The officer was sentenced to six months in prison.

Ten percent of all women in U.S. jails report being sexually abused by corrections officers. In 2012, an officer offered money for sex to an inmate doing late cleaning duty. After humiliating her in a supply closet, the officer instructed the woman to “clean her mess up”.  His punishment was a year of low-level probation.

At one prison in Alabama it has been reported that a third of prison employees have had sex with female inmates.  After a federal investigation at that prison, it was reported that inmates, “live in a sexualized environment with repeated and open sexual behavior including: abusive sexual contact between staff and prisoners, sexualized activity, and a strip show condoned by staff.”

The thing is – we don’t even know the half of it, because anyone who has lived in a prison environment knows it is in an inmate’s best interest not to report any wrongdoing on the part of corrections staff.  This is the reality we don’t hear about every day.

REFERENCES

Barrish, Cris. “Sex behind Bars: Women Violated in Delaware Prison.” Delawareonline. The News Journal, 31 July 2015. Web. 02 Jan. 2017.

Gates, Verna. “Inmates at Alabama Women’s Prison Face Sexual Abuse: U.S. Justice.”Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 22 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Jan. 2017.