How The American Prison System Fails Women

If you love to watch videos on the latest trends of social media as much as I do, then you’ve probably seen quite a few about incarcerated women in the U.S. prison system. Buzzfeed and YouTube are just two of several platforms where women can share their stories of what it’s like to be behind bars, and while the lengths of their sentences vary, they have one thing in common: struggling to have access to proper sanitation and healthcare products.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a nonprofit organization that strives to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country,” there are currently 200,000 women in prison today, and more than one million are on probation or parole.

Behind the bars, medical attention is scarce. Women are cornered into their cells in agony as they are told that they’re fine. But in reality, they’re terrified. Typically, prisons have a clinic or infirmary for sick inmates, but they are not allowed to check-in unless they are given written permission, which could take anywhere from three to five days. And when it comes to medication, inmates are not allowed to carry their own. Correctional officers hold them and will issue the pills one at a time.

According to Prison Fellowship, “Female prisoners are often at a higher risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases due to high-risk behavior (such as sex work), drugs, and sexual abuse.” Getting the correct dose of medication for an STD can be difficult. And if an inmate is a drug user, and has to quit cold turkey due to their imprisonment, their lives can be at risk.

Now that the topic is becoming more widespread and viral, former inmates have taken their voices to YouTube to tell their own stories. Just a quick search will pull up dozens of videos from women, all with different, yet vaguely similar, experiences.

They all come from various backgrounds and ethnicities, but once inside the concrete walls of prison, they are all given unfair treatment when it comes to their mental, physical and emotional health. Their hour-to-hour routines are controlled down to the second.

Christina Randall is one popular YouTuber that speaks about her experiences in prison; from makeup to holidays and everything in between. Randall has spoken about how she and her fellow inmates made tampons, which they could then use for free instead of buying a box of eight for $10.

 

 

Even if inmates decided to splurge on a box, it would come back to bite them. In-person visits have to be paid for, and the price of a box of tampons hinders their savings to see family. Making money in prison isn’t an easy task. Prison jobs often require high amounts of physical labor and pay very little.

Randall was arrested and taken to jail on her twenty-first birthday after a fight, and a judge, after seeing her police record, ruled to send her to prison. Now ten years free, Randall has over 370,000 subscribers on YouTube, and her videos get anywhere between 200,000 and 1,000,000 views.

And while Randall is living happily outside of the Florida prison she spent three years in, other women and young girls are not so lucky. Every day is a constant fight for survival and basic necessities that every woman, incarcerated or not, should have access to. Educating the public and making positive steps forward in the prison system can create a snowball effect for a better second chance for women in prisons all over the United States.

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Edited by Katie Carnefix