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The Inside:


Behind Bars

A Collaboration between UNIS Human Right Project & Proof: Media for Social Justice

Women make up 7% of the US state and federal prison population, but they account for a third of the world’s incarcerated women. In 2017, the number of females held in jails and prisons stood at 225,060, an increase of more than 750% since 1980. In total, 1.3 million women are under the control of the US criminal justice system through probation or parole.

Racial disparities also affect women in the criminal justice system: In 2017, the imprisonment rate for Black women was 92 per 100,000, compared to 67 per 100,000 for Hispanic women, and 49 per 100,000 for White women. But between 2000 and 2016, the rate of imprisonment for Black women declined by 55%, while it increased by 44% for White women.

Sixty-five percent of incarcerated women are mothers of minor children, and half are incarcerated over one hundred miles away from their families. The majority are Black and Hispanic, and have been imprisoned for nonviolent offenses.

The vast majority of incarcerated women have experienced physical and sexual abuse, poverty and addiction and once inside prison, they continue to face inhumane and degrading treatment. Several human rights organizations have documented widespread misconduct by male correctional staff against women inmates, including: sexually offensive language, sexual assault, searches involving inappropriate touching and male staff watching while they are naked. Fear of retaliation prevents the majority from reporting the abuse.

Test your knowledge.

Chapter 08 — Question 01

The rate of imprisonment for Black women in the U.S. is ____ per 100,000.

Correct! Wrong!

96 in 1000 is the rate of imprisonment for black women in the U.S.

Chapter 08 — Question 01

Evie Litwok

EVIE LITWOK is a formerly incarcerated, aging, New York, Jewish, lesbian, feminist and child of two holocaust survivors. She has been to prison twice, both while in her 60s.

“Walking into prison is a shock to the system and the shock happens right away when you’re forced to strip naked and get strip searched. You suddenly realize that you’re really in another place. You can’t cry. You can’t feel. You can’t do anything. Sexual violence is so prevalent that it hits every single one of us. The guards walk over to you and they say, “ Do you want to see your kids? I want to see you.” “You want visitation from your mother. I want to see you.” There’s no such thing as consensual sex in prison. An officer who does anything with an inmate is committing a criminal act. But women are afraid of reporting this because the guards can retaliate. They can make you disappear very easily in the system. They can put you in solitary. They can limit your phone, email or any privileges. They control your ability to remain in contact with everybody that you know. Prisons create a medical health situation which is unhealthy and it’s a disaster. We don’t have PTSD but we do have post trauma prison stress. I will never be the same as I was before prison.”

Read Evie Story
Continue to

Chapter Nine

Treated like an Adult