10. Women's Issues
"Where there is no struggle, there is no strength."
- Oprah Winfrey
Women also go to prison. Of the approximate 212,000 inmates, over 14,000 (6.7% as of December 2014) are females who are housed in twenty eight (28) facilities across the country. This number is far fewer than the number of male prisons and that issue is one of the main differences between male and female inmates. This can result in women being sent to prisons far from their home (outside of 500 miles).
During 2013 and 2014, the women's medium security prison was converted to a male prison and the women's minimum security camp was to also be converted. The original plan was to move all of these female inmates to Aliceville, AL, a very rural part of the state. However, politicians stepped in and while the medium facility has been converted and the female inmates transferred to other facilities, the minimum security camp is still female. There is further news that this facility is going to be expanded for women but no new construction has started as of December 2014. The closing of Danbury would mean that there would be no prison for women located in the northeast U.S., a major problem. Look for continued efforts to help women address these issues, but look for progress to be slow.
Life in prison for women inmates is much like it is for men. The dormitory living, commissary, communication, work, recreation, healthcare and policies are all universal throughout the BOP. So as you read all the sections here in Prisonology, understand that the information here applies to both men and women. Regarding healthcare, there is more attention and opportunities given to women for annual physicals and mammograms.
Women are screened for pregnancy up entering prison. If they are, the BOP has a program that allows women to give birth and bond with the child for up to a year. This program, referred to Mothers and Infants Nurturing Together (MINT). Women are eligible to enter the program when they are in their last three months of pregnancy, have less than five years remaining to serve on their sentence, and are eligible for furlough. Prior to the birth, the mother must make arrangements for a custodian to take care of the child when it comes times to separate. The inmate or a guardian must assume financial responsibility for the child’s medical care while residing at MINT.
In one scenario, the mother has three months to bond with the newborn child before returning to an institution to complete her sentence. This usually occurs living at a halfway house, not the best situation but it is something. However, there is a program that few know about and there is only one MINT program like it in the country and it is located in rural West Virginia.
The Greenbriar Birthing Center, despite its somewhat awkward name, has a MINT program that allows qualifying women to live with their child for up to a year after birth in a setting that is much more comfortable than a halfway house. This facility is nothing like prison with no fences, ability to leave for local shopping for childcare needs and a bit more privacy.
Women are released from this program to go back home, preferable, to a halfway house, or return to a prison to continue serving their prison time.
In all, women obviously face issues and deal with prison much differently than men. The family dynamic and recovering from prison may also be much different, so we will interject more information as we can throughout this site.