Published 2021-09-30
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Women In Prison - The Harsh Realities and Immoral Tragedies Behind The Bars!

For the majority of people, the only way they will experience what prison life can be like is by what they see on television or in movies. But shows like this are not only usually much different from reality but a lot of them are focused on what life in prison is like for men. Besides Orange Is The New Black, which in itself is also fictionalized to an extent, there is not much that shows what things are like for women behind bars. And a majority of those shows and movies are based in America and rarely offer a view of those conditions in other countries. Though given that the number of female inmates in the United States alone has increased by more than 700% since 1980, what realities do women face in prison? What are some of the worst prisons for women around the world? Read on to find out what their lives look like behind the bars.

Women In Prison - The Numbers

Female prisons are a relatively new concept as women used to be placed in a separate wing of male prison houses. But, as more and more women started getting convicted of as many crimes as their male counterparts, the first women’s prison was finally built-in 1869. Where people serving their prison sentences are concerned, the majority of the people behind bars, statistically are men. In the USA there are about 170 women’s prisons with more than 200,000 women serving criminal sentences, though the majority of them were for non-violent offenses. According to WHO statistics, in Europe, women also constitute a small proportion of the total prison population in Europe, around 4-5% on average. And there too the number of women in prison is increasing rapidly as there are about 100,000 women in prison on any given day across the continent. There too most of the sentences are for non-violent offenses which are often related to property or drugs. Though despite the fact that these women are typically low-risk inmates, there are very few differences between the way that male and female inmates are treated.

Women In Prison - The Difficulties They Face

One of the biggest troubles that women face in prison includes prenatal care and feminine hygiene product allowances. In many prisons, women tend to do some jobs while serving their time, the money they earn is put into a bank account that they can then use to purchase things in the prison shop. However, the commissary prices for things such as pads, tampons, deodorant, soap, etc. are often so high that without outside help from their families or friends, the inmates are often unable to buy anything but absolute necessities and even then that proves difficult at times. And maybe while the women on Orange Is The New Black may have gotten pretty crafty with pads, according to one former inmate, they were a precious commodity. According to a bustle report, a prison in Connecticut reportedly only supplied inmates with enough sanitary pads to be able to change once a day! However, those who can’t have to face the humiliation of staining their clothing and bedsheets.

Women In Prison - Abuse They Suffer

Sexual abuse is also a big issue where women’s prisons are concerned. Such abuse can happen to anyone no matter their wealth or power but women in correctional facilities are much more vulnerable to assault than others. In one interview, talking about her time in prison, a former inmate Zarba talked about how she was surprised by how few female officers worked in the jail she was in, adding that male staff looked at when she was changing or using the bathroom. Many cases have been filed against prison guards who molested an inmate, and despite that this “cross-gender supervision” (men guardian women, and vice versa) is supposed to have been limited under existing laws it still continues. In the US, females are the victims of one-third of all sexual abuse cases committed by prison staff, despite making up just 7% of the prison population. Though sex is often used in return for certain favors as well, the most common being the sneaking in of contraband such as drugs and other abusive substances. But those are not the only issues they face, read on to find out other problems that women deal with.

Women In Prison - Drugs and Mental Health

And where sneaking in contrabands is concerned, drug abuse in prisons is also a growing concern. In the UK alone 31% of women had reported that it was easy for them to get their hands on illegal substances while in prison. Sally, a former inmate in the UK, revealed that she saw massive drug abuse during her time inside, with women smuggling drugs in by any means necessary which included inside babies’ nappies. According to reports by the WHO, women inmates are also more likely than male prisoners to use illegal substances when behind bars. Though another issue major issue that many women suffer from while behind bars is mental illnesses. Around 80% of women behind bars have an identifiable mental illness and two-thirds suffer from substance-related disorders. HIV and other infectious diseases are also often higher among women prisoners and as statistics show, women prisoners are more likely to harm themselves and commit suicide while serving their time.

Women In Prison And Their Children

Most people in prison, be it, men or women, miss contact with their families. While many offer visits that can prove to be difficult if someone is serving time far from their home. In the US one of the issues is that jail calls are expensive. The Federal Communications Commission reported that prisoners pay as much as $17 for a 15-minute call. According to some reports, statistically, women are also less likely to get family visits than male inmates. Though where women are concerned, at times they are often also separated from their children. About 60% of women in state prisons have children under 18 and visitation isn’t always an option and even if they are, there are other difficulties such as not being able to embrace them, for security reasons. Many women in prisons are mothers and usually the primary or only carers for their children. Around 10,000 babies and children in Europe are estimated to be affected by their mother’s imprisonments. If the child can’t go with other family or if they aren’t around that is when local authorities get involved and the kids are often placed in foster care. Though certain prisons allow for mothers to be able to have their babies with them up to a certain age. Usually, the age is up to 18 months. While such prison nurseries might not be ideal, and many see them as controversial, they are a better alternative as in many prisons, when a woman gives birth, her baby is taken away within 48 to 72 hours and is sent to either a relative or foster care. Giving birth behind bars is also dangerous. While there could be complications even in the most sanitary environments, inmates giving birth in prison are also chained to the hospital beds during labor and they don’t always have access to standard medical care. And if the child is taken away from them, it could worsen the postpartum depression. Though not all prisons allow that and some are notorious for their terrible conditions so make sure to read on to find out some horrific stories.

Women In Prison - A Day In The Life

While shows like OITNB in one way can portray prison life as exciting, that might not always be the case as some days might be very mundane. So what does a typical day look like? Well, we’re about to show you! Prisoners typically wake up between 5-6 a.m to be counted and checked by guards. Almost all prisons have inmate share cells, usually between two or three women but there are some that can have up to 20 in one large room. If an inmate has a job in the prison’s kitchens, for her the day might start as early as 3:30 or 4 a.m. After wake-up and inspection, it’s off to breakfast which lasts about 30 minutes, and then they are expected to go do their various jobs as every prisoner is expected to have one. That can be from the aforementioned kitchen work, taking out the trash, they also fulfill janitorial roles, serve food, work on construction crews, do laundry, and other miscellaneous tasks. Depending on how time-consuming the job is, prisoners are expected to work until lunchtime. The time for lunch is about 30 minutes to an hour before either returning to their jobs or enjoying free time. That differs from facility to facility and the nature of their crimes but usually female prisoners actually receive more freedom than their male counterparts and during the day they often have access to the gyms, bathroom facilities, library, and other recreational areas. At 5 pm dinner is served, then it’s some more free time and returns to cells around 8 p.m, with facilities typically turning out the lights around 11 p.m. And then the cycle repeats again.

Women In Prison - Some Of The Worst Prisons

Back when women's prisons were first introduced, their task was to reform rather than imprison as their eventual goal was to send the women back into society rather than keeping them hidden from the world. Though these days, women’s prisons are much more different and in some ways the same as the average male prison. However, some have become extremely notorious for being truly terrifying even without taking the aforementioned things into consideration so now let’s look at some of the worst known women’s prisons. One of the most famous and talked about has been Grand Valley Institution in Ontario, Canada. Mainly because it has been most famed for the death of a 19-year-old inmate Ashley Smith which caused a gigantic legal inquest and much controversy around the world. In 2007 Ashley was videotaped strangling herself with a piece of cloth while locked up in a solitary cell. Despite being watched by guards, it took a further 45 minutes for anyone to intervene. China’s Heilongjiang Women’s Prison has also been renowned for its tough stance on wayward prisoners. A few years ago the prison had made headlines after one woman revealed that she had withstood severe abuse and torture for nearly three years, mostly on the grounds of her faith and as she claimed, the guards were desperate for her to renounce her faith and they would do that by any means possible. It was also revealed that the prison was investigated for illegal organ harvesting when prisons had complained of having their blood taken from them without consent. In Auckland Women's Prison in New Zealand, prisoners there sometimes face being gassed in their cells. According to a report on the matter, this was something that guards called a “cell buster extraction” the objective of which was to incapacitate the prisoner so guards can remove them from the cell without fear of resistance. This is something that asthmatic inmate Karma Cripps experienced herself, as the guards emptied four canisters of the gas into her cell while she desperately tried to shield her face, even going as far as sticking her head down the toilet.

Women In Prison - Some Of The Worst Conditions

In the UK, one of the most famous prisons for women is HM Prison Styal in Cheshire. In 1898 it was originally opened as an orphanage but it transformed into the prison it is today in 1962. It has been known as having the worst record for suicides in England and Wales and is said to be one of the toughest facilities in the country. According to reports bullying and drug use are rampant throughout its walls and overcrowding has become a huge problem, which led to a number of deaths. Despite a 2004 report that said the place was putting the lives of inmates at risk, not much has been done with regards to improving the quality of life there. Another terrible facility that is famous for its inmates losing their lives has been the Kaechon concentration camp located in North Korea. Though it can be said that no prison in that country would be a good one, especially given the rumors and reports that have come out about the country, this prison holds both men and women who are allegedly political prisoners as well as a small number of everyday common criminals. It is known for its extremely long sentences and harsh conditions. One female inmate who made it out alive after completing her sentence had told reporters that around 20% of the prisoners there had died during her stay of just two years.

Women In Prison - Harsh Punishments

One of the first adult female correctional facilities in the UK has been the Indiana Women’s Prison in 1873. The place is known for its high number of inmates who require special attention, as it has a high number of mentally ill, disabled, pregnant, and elderly inmates. The prison has been evolving on a yearly basis and in 2015 its population increased to a whopping 600 prisoners. And a prison that certainly sends shivers down the spines of anyone who hears of it is the IK-14 prison for women in Russia’s central region of Mordovia. Its harsh conditions are so known that former inmates have said that women condemned to serve time there often take extreme measures to avoid it such as seriously harming themselves. The women there are said to work in slave-labor conditions as they are forced to work 16 or 17 hours a day with only one day off every eight weeks. Another former inmate revealed that while working in the sweatshop, sewing fabrics, if an inmate had made a mistake they would get beaten by the guards and in severe cases, their fingers would be chopped off. The conditions in the prison were horrid as well and there were many rats living among the prisoners. There were also many cats, who the women would grow fond of. Though the guards used that to their advantage. When the cats had kittens, which brought some joy to the prisoners, if one person made a mistake, the guards would gather the kittens, toss them in a bag and then throw them in the furnace.

While the prisons we mentioned are far from nice, can you think of any other terrible women’s prisons? Let us know in the comments and if you enjoyed this article do not hesitate to share it with your friends and leave a Like on our Facebook page!

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