The Marshall Project together with Teen Vogue sat down to examine what prison life is for women and girls. Ayana Thomas and Sarah Zarba were there – both formerly incarcerated women.
Kyndia Riley, a teenage student who was only two years old when her parents were dispatched off to prison weighed in. And US Sen. Cory Booker (D) from New Jersey shared insights on what women face in prisons.
Impossible or Rare Family Visits Affect Female Inmates More Than Anything Else
One of the major problems the women faced while incarcerated is connection with family. Several studies point to the fact that female inmates undergo lower recidivism when they bond with family in prison.
Many women prisons are not always able to see their children and family because of the distance of their prison facility. Some women are incarcerated in far away states where family needs to undertake long journeys to see them. This makes family visits rare where money is an issue.
Kyndia Riley faced this problem when her parents took off to prison. Both were incarcerated in very distant federal prisons. Kyndia was only two and visiting was a problem for her guardian. Since money was tight, even speaking to her parents on phone was quite expensive.
So Kyndia thought the only way she could be close to her parents was to get into trouble and be incarcerated too. But she never got into serious trouble and was never incarcerated. So she only saw her parents a couple of times or so a year.
Women in Prison Face Unique Challenges Such As Rapes and Lack of Usable Pads
Ayana Thomas was from Virginia. But she was incarcerated for two and half years in far away Connecticut. Her kids were only able to visit occasionally, and embracing them was a problem because the prison forbade it for security reasons.
She could only hold her children’s hands for a brief moment before a guard would tear them apart. This is largely because prison authorities are aware that visiting persons sometimes smuggle contraband to inmates.
Sen. Booker recently introduced a bill that would make prison life easier for many women across US correctional facilities. This is largely because women face unique challenges that men do not face in prison.
For instance, female inmates are often raped or sexually assaulted by guards. Some prisons also charge for money before they can provide women with pads and tampons. Where money is not charged directly, the number of these necessary items are rationed out to women and soon go out of stock.