Words from women in prison

By ELIZABETH RAU  |  March 3, 2010

"The next man that attempts to do me any harm, or looks like he wants to do me something, is going to get it!" she writes. "I was skeptical of men and I treated them with very little respect. I couldn't separate an abuser from a non-abuser. They were all abusers in my eyes." When another man attacked her, she suffered a flashback and struck back. The next stop was prison.

For another woman writer, the beatings started when she forgot to cook breakfast: "I turned into Tina Turner on Ike and beat you back. I gave you a black eye . . . God, did you make me pay. You made me take a photograph of your black eye as a constant reminder."

More women are being sent to prison, partly due to tougher drug laws. Still, their numbers are few. In 2009, there were 215 women prisoners at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Rhode Island, compared to 3558 men. It's no surprise that women inmates are often called the "invisible population."

"Men who get out of prison have someone waiting — a mother or girlfriend," says Sol Rodriguez, executive director of Open Doors, a nonprofit group that helps formerly incarcerated men and women and will receive the proceeds from Words. "Women who come out of prison have nowhere to go. They've lost their children, their relationships are fractured, they're dealing with drug addictions. A lot of times, they end up in another train-wreck relationship."

And, more often than not, back where they came from: prison. "Society needs to know who these people are," says Rodriguez, so the country can start to embrace treatment, not imprisonment.

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