Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Sat 5 Apr 08 15:50
Wait, what? Where did you buy these misprinted books? Can you please give me the names of the bookstores/cities/states (and/or did you buy online?), so that I can have this tracked? This is the first I've heard of this, and it's alarming, to say the least. I just went through a few boxes I have at home, and they're all in order. Re: chapters online, it's not possible right now ... it would be a violation of the book contract.
Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Sat 5 Apr 08 16:19
I've got messages into the folks at Seal and Perseus about this, so I hope to have some answers soon re: the misprintings. Again, please post here or email me directly if you have that info. about where you've been sold a misprint. In lieu of the availability of the chapters online or by e-mail (which I really can't send you according to the very specific terms of the contract), I provided those links to articles/interviews where I address many of the broader questions asked here. To answer w/ the specific stats re: mental illness-- According to the latest data, female rates of mental illness manifest at 73% of prisoners in state facilities, compared to 55% of men. In federal prisons, 61% of females have a mental ilness, versus 43.6% for men. The highest figures are found in local jails, the first entry point in the CJ system for people who run afoul of the law. There, over 3/4 (75.4%) of women have mental illnesses of one kind or another, compared with 62.8% of men ... both genders, clearly, have far, far higher rates than those of people in the 'free world,' although women prisoners exceed men's rates across the board. Three out of four prisoners, overall, are dependent on drugs when they are arrested. Throughout the CJ system, social workers and psychologists (as well as criminal defense lawyers) will attest to the fact that drug abuse and mental illness often go hand in hand.
Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Sat 5 Apr 08 16:46
Jack, I'm sure you can attest to the above. What you've witnessed, according to your earlier posts, is a harrowing reality of your line of work. People in our respective professions frequently suffer with the same kind of 'secondary trauma,' as it's called. Similarly, the access to prisoners and the cluelessness we encounter about the actual rights of prisoners to counsel, to confidential legal mail, etc. I want to answer that earlier question about dealing with corrections personnel, but first, for the folks (like me) who need their stats, too: According to the most recent national data (1999, BJS) on the subject * One in 4 female prisoners versus 1 in 20 male prisoners reported sexual abuse before they turned 18; * One in 4 female prisoners versus 1 in 10 men reported physical abuse before they turned 18; * Among state prisoners, 1/2 (52%) of women were abused at *some* point before incarceration, compared with 16% of men; * Among federal prisoners, 40% of women reported the same, compared with 7% of men; * Among jail inmates, 48% of women reported the same, compared with 13% of men; * Among probationers, 40% of women reported the same, compared with 9% of men; * Of the women abused before incarceration, over half reported that they had been assaulted/injured/abused by spouses or partners, 1/3 by parents/guardians. One-half of abused men, in contrast, reported their parents/guardians were the perpetrators; * Abused females were very likely to have experienced one or more kind of abuse as both juveniles and adults. Among men, abuse usually fell into either the juvenile or adult experience. * Former prisoners who were in foster care reported the absolute highest rates of abuse. Nearly *9 in 10( female prisoners were abused before the age of 18 in foster care. Among male prisoners, that figure was roughly half as prevalent as that of the females, at 44%. All of these stats point to people in prison with tremendous histories of pain, abuse, mental illness (and chronic physical illness, as well), and substance abuse rates. But the fact remains that females come into the system with abuse/trauma/mental illness at rates far above those of men. It's a sad reflection of our society as a whole, and of the inadequacy of the criminal justice system to address such problems. In fact, I would argue (as I believe most people in this field would), that the scope of the problems are so vast that the lock-em-up formula is bound to backfire in most cases. I believe that sky high recidivism rates demonstrate that very clearly.
Mrs. Bigby Hind (jessica) Sat 5 Apr 08 17:48
I'll check the exact pages and let you know -- instead of the correct run of pages, earlier chapters are repeated. This book was sent to me by the Well as part of the inkwell.vue program, so however those were obtained is the place to look for tracking.
Jack King (gjk) Sat 5 Apr 08 18:20
I got my copy through the Well and it was OK, which is odd. Silja, the journalists I deal with complain constantly about getting access to prisoners. How hard was that for you? You interviewed probably 100 women for this book, and I assume that meant a great deal of visits. I think you also said above that a federal prison barred you completely. Federal prison wardens sometimes just bar journalists period. That's in the warden's discretion according to the BOP guidelines and I don't think there's a damn thing prisoner or reporter can do about it. How would you advise journalists on gaining access to prisons?
Maria Rosales (rosmar) Mon 7 Apr 08 14:00
I also got my copy through the WELL and it is fine. Thank you for all those statistics. They are very interesting. As you mentioned earlier, some of the gender differences may be in perception. And a huge WOW on the foster care abuse rates for women who end up in prison.
Straight Outta Concord (angus) Mon 7 Apr 08 20:41
Years, probably decades, ago, I heard anecdotally that women's prison sentences tended to be longer than men's because of crowding not being as bad in women's prisons. What I've read of the book makes me think that's no longer the case, if it ever was.
Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Tue 8 Apr 08 07:37
Thanks, folks, for the book misprint info. The people at Seal say they've gotten no complaints so far from any of the distributors and just went through and checked their own in-house supply & found no weird copies there. So, anyone who has a weird-o copy *please* get it exchanged where you bought it. In the case of the people who got them through the Well, would you let Cynthia know directly--or whoever sent it to you? If she contacts Seal directly & lets them know that one of these copies got sent to her, she'll be able to get a replacement copy from the PR person directly. Jack, yes, I interviewed many women for the book. Actually, the number was in the hundreds insofar as *some* form of an interview or piece of correspondence. Let me think about how to phrase the answer to the question about how to gain access to a prison. It's a great question, to be sure. More on that later today.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 8 Apr 08 07:55
I guess one of the questions I was left with at the end of the book is what in the world one can do about this situation. It seems that the forces that are driving more and more women into prison are vast societal forces -- basically the drug war and our unwillingness to devote resources to the treatment of the mentally ill. And both of these in turn are reflections (at least in my opinion) of major currents in American culture. We tend to think that social problems come from bad people, and the solution is to punish or isolate (or kill) those people. Where do we begin?
Mrs. Bigby Hind (jessica) Tue 8 Apr 08 08:22
I've been thinking about that big question too, and wondering if in addition to trying to address the large issues through political action we can also help in small ways by becoming involved in the lives of one or more incarcerated people. It's a small thing, but one fact that has stuck with me since I read this is that a handful of grapes becomes an unimaginable luxury to a prisoner whose diet is completely devoid of fresh fruit. Are there ways to become a friend to an individual and to help provide them with some of these small items, visits, outside advocacy, letters, and friendship in a way that would make a difference in their experience?
Jack King (gjk) Tue 8 Apr 08 08:37
Don't be sending any contraband, like fruit. Your penpal will end up in the hole for a couple of weeks, since they can't punish you.
Mrs. Bigby Hind (jessica) Tue 8 Apr 08 09:31
Well, obviously. Anyway, grapes do lousy in the mail, unless you are Harry & David, which I am not.
Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Wed 9 Apr 08 03:20
I would advise against grapes! ;-) Getting into each prison requires a different approach. The ones rocked by scandal have to be cajoled into giving the permission. In other words, sometimes I even reference the scandal and say that I'm looking to hear, first-hand, what the prison administration has to say about the situation, and to see conditions for myself. And that's not a lie, by any means. The emphasis on giving the administrators and employees the chance to set the record straight is an appealing one, to be sure. Initially, I also explain that my work sets out to tell stories with *complexity.* I emphasize that I am as interested in talking with the people in charge as well as with the prisoners, and I reassure them as to the quality of my work. With publisher's letters attesting to the future publication of the work, with emphasis on my journalism awards, etc., I usually get a call back rather quickly. But that isn't the case all the time. In the case of LA County Jail, I had to work on them for a half of a year. Each request was ignored, until I simply began calling regularly, and then, every day. If nothing else, I made it clear at that point that I wasn't going away just because I was being ignored. (Or avoided, as the case often has been.) mcdee, the potential solutions to this mass incarceration craze can take so many forms. The book after this next one I'm starting work on now, will actually address those very issues. I'm actually interested in having this discussion with you all. I have ideas, but I want to hear yours, as well. More later! I still haven't gotten to all of what I want to respond to! I'm on deadline all tomorrow, but will get in here again as soon as I can! I am interested to hear from those of you who have read the book what chapters or aspects of WBB surprised or stirred you the most. How many of you were already somewhat exposed to criminal justice issues before reading Women Behind Bars? And how many of you have loved ones behind bars? Have any of you visited loved ones in jail or prison, or done time? If you don't want share in this public space, pls. do feel free to email me directly. I learn from my readers all the time, and I'm genuinely grateful for the opportunity to learn from people who are willing to share their stories with me to any extent.
Jack King (gjk) Wed 9 Apr 08 03:47
I was already painfully aware of the complete and utter indifference to serious medical problems throughout our correctional facilities, reckless indifference that amounts to violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, in my opinion. At common law, when you assert control and responsibility for the life of another, you create a special relationship that imposes a *higher* duty of care for that person. So the story of Gina Munoz, who pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery ($200), got life with parole, and developed cervical cancer in the LA County lockup and then was denied treatment at Central Cal Women's really got me. In her case, life meant "life" due to denial of necessary treatment.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 9 Apr 08 05:33
Obviously, I have nothing like Jack's knowledge of or involvement in the issue. I'm from a painfully law-abiding family on both sides (other than my grandmother once working as a bookkeeper for a bootlegger in Rock Island, Illinois). However, as a kid I heard the late Mr. Ochs' song "There, But for Fortune" and thought "yup!" Over the years, I've done a lot of reading on the general subject -- everything from popular "true crime" to much more serious academic stuff and personal memoirs. I've emerged with a great lack of sympathy for the true predators among us, but also with recognition that for every Ted Bundy there are a thousand (if not 100,000) people who get caught up in the system initially for low-level bullshit often related to the fact that their family is falling apart and/or abusive. Not to mention the people who get caught up in it because they have a substance abuse problem and the substance happens to be one that's illegal. And oddly, one thing that sparked my interest in prisons specifically was a long-ago ferry ride in San Francisco. I ended up sitting next to a very large and muscular guy who had been released from San Quentin a couple of days previous and had spent his time since drinking and doing other drugs. He decided I was his pal, which is fortunate. And I guess I was his pal, in a way. I spent much of the ferry ride talking him out of the notion that "that bitch" over in the next row of seats was looking at him funny and that he should do serious violence to her. And various other related thoughts (in reality, the woman he was convinced was looking at him was serenely unaware of his existence). That experience gave me a lot to think about for a long time, even though it was a very brief encounter.
Maria Rosales (rosmar) Wed 9 Apr 08 15:18
I have several family members (uncles and cousins) who've spent time in prison, but all are men. So far only one of my siblings has been behind bars, and that was jail rather than prison. (He was very lucky--he carjacked a car while high on meth and got drug court instead of prison when he plea-bargained. He was a huge success story in my mind, except that recently he has started using crank again.) Before I read your book I had read one article about incarcerated juveniles that focused on girls. There were similar themes, like the harsher treatment of girls who violate gender norms, and the history of abuse. But your book was much more depressing, partly because it is not written in academicese, and partly because its length allowed you to go into several issues, such as the "God Pod" and "Shipping Women's Bodies" that I'd never heard about before.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 9 Apr 08 17:10
sisu, can you elaborate on what those are?
Charles Edward Lincoln, III (celiii) Thu 10 Apr 08 00:37
I want to make people aware of a very unusual case in Arcadia, Florida. A woman named Nancy Jo Grant, a native of DeSoto County whose lived in this upper waterlogged savannah north of the Everglades for most of her entire life, has dedicated her life to helping prisoners in the Florida Jail system, and she now finds herself in jail for no crime other than JUST THAT: dedicating her life to helping prisoners. Nancy was arrested February 19, 2008, and is now entering her third month in the DeSoto County Jail awaiting a hearing on revocation of her probation for UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW (which basically consisted of providing prisoners with a form they could use when they had been held for an excessively long time without trial). Nancy is DEFINITELY the first woman ever to be jailed after a trial-by-jury for Unauthorized Practice of Law. There have been other prosecutions, but Nancy was sentenced to 15 years probation last August, and the intent was obviously to trap her and put her in jail. Nancy NEVER made any money out of her activities, in fact she SPENT money helping others. At her trial, the Judge Expressly forbade Nancy or her attorney (Andrew Mooney of Bradenton, Florida) from introducing any evidence or arguments concerning violations of the First Amendment. The most interesting thing about Nancy Jo Grant's two months in prison is that SHE HAS BEEN HELD IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT THE ENTIRE TIME. NOT because she is violent, certainly not. NOT because she is suicidal or has threatened to harm herself (even more certainly not). No, Nancy Jo Grant has simply refused to promise the DeSoto County Sheriff or any other prison officials that she will not talk to other prisoners and share her knowledge and experience with them. In a strange way, then, Nancy is not only being punished for what she has done but what she might do: she might educate other female prisoners about their rights. For YEARS now, the U.S. Supreme Court has required states to give great latitude to prisoners to violate the "outside world" prohibition on Unauthorized Practice of Law. "Jailhouse lawyers" are commonly allowed to prepare pleadings and motions for other less literate prisoners. Nancy is thus being denied the rights that are granted to convicted murderers, bankrobbers, rapists, and even politicians convicted of violating the criminal provisions of the McCain-Feingold Act. There is absolutely no justication for what is going on in Nancy's case. Her confinement is cruel and unusual punishment, on the one hand, but it is for the illegitimate purpose of denying her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom to petition which, even within the confines of jail are not meant to be limited---because even convicted murderers have these freedoms within the confines of the cement walls and steel doors. The existence of "integrated state bars" is a rare form of the State-Action exception to the most fundamentally American Antitrust Laws--which but for the So-called Parker Doctrine would be absolutely illegal as a restraint on trade in suppression of fundamental rights. The incompetence or at best mediocrity of the American Legal System and probably 99% of the members of the legal profession is a curse to most prisoners and has been for many years. And in the confines of the fields of family law, child custody and welfare, the State Bar monopoly is a curse to many "free" citizens "on the outside," because it pretends a monopoly on the most fundamental and necessary knowledge about how to live in a free society---knowledge of the supposedly democratically created legal system. But the monopoly of licensed attorneys over the practice of law amounts to the restoration of a peerage in these United States---a group of "courtiers" whose "admission" or banishment from Court determines their power---and the course of history in the realm. And of course, the worst part about the State Bar Monopoly is the corrupt collusion between Judges and Attorneys---which everyone knows but no one admits, because it is just too dangerous to criticize judges---it can be hazardous to your life, liberty, and property in a country which has all but forgotten what due process of law might mean....and in which profits from the vast "correctional services industry" are one of the few growth industries in this sad, benighted, "Land of the Free." Nancy Jo Grant ran for Governor of Florida in 2000 and was planning on running again. Her story is told in more depth at www.nancygrant.info and at http://charleslincoln3.wordpress.com.
Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Fri 11 Apr 08 06:15
Thank you for telling me about Grant's case. I want to look into it. Maria, your experience with family members in the criminal justice system/imprisonment is the kind of thing that people don't think about as much as they should: the collateral consequences, so to speak, of having loved ones loved up. Namely, there's a tremendous emotional and often financial toll involved ... families can literally go bankrupt dealing with legal and lawyer fees, securing bail bonds, and monopoly-controlled commissary costs (so that prisoners can eat something other than illness-inducing slop or, worse yet, "Nutraloaf"), as well as collect phone calls that can run $4-20 for a 15-minute call. As so many jails/prisons are located in far-off locations, those phone calls are a lifeline for prisoners and their family/spouses alike. It's a horrible system of kickbacks to departments of correction for allowing these monopolies. Linda, I'd be happy to elaborate on those two chapters. I've been up all night on a story about the connection between woman killed in a privately-run prison, and a Republican stalwart nominated by Bush to a federal district court judgeship. I've got to grab a cat nap and finish the story this morning. It should be on the In These Times website sometime next week, and I'll post it here then.
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 11 Apr 08 12:46
Maria Rosales (rosmar) Sat 12 Apr 08 14:21
This topic jinxed me, I think. One of my sisters was arrested the day before yesterday, and her husband is asking me to send him $5000 for a lawyer. Which I'm not going to send, but it reminded me of your point about the costs to the family. My sister was arrested for stealing and having meth and a pipe on her when she was caught. I'm hoping that the fact that this is her first arrest will mean that they cut her a break. (She also has a child born in August, and another who is 13. Which also reminded me of your book.) Good luck with your story, <sisu>.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sat 12 Apr 08 14:28
I dream of an America where we stop persecuting people with substance abuse and/or mental health issues. Is that too much to ask for?
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 12 Apr 08 17:48
Jack King (gjk) Sun 13 Apr 08 17:49
Some years ago, during the second Clinton administration, the State dept. used to bring defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges over here to the USA, particularly from the former Eastern Block. The reason I mention this was a public defender from Macedonia, circa 1996, was horrified that we lock people up for possession of small amounts of drugs. In Macedonia, possession of 14 grams of heroin or cocaine or a half kilo of opium is treated as a public health problem. You only go to jail if you refuse treatment, and if you are jailed for refusing treatment, you get out the day after you agree to treatment. Under state and federal law here, possession of a half ounce of cocaine or heroin, or a pound of opium, is an automatic term of years, no treatment alternative available.
Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Sun 13 Apr 08 21:33
This is horrible to hear. Please don't think this topic jinxed you. In fact, I think that you're going to be armed with more information and, most certainly, some people to talk to about this who genuinely care and don't judge. On the contrary, I'm outraged that this happened to her. If she's smoking meth/ice, she's hurting terribly. Prosecuting people like this, as many of you have mentioned, is absolutely senseless. My heart goes out to you. Please let me know if I can help somehow with advice or just emotional support. W/r/t the money the husband is asking for, I do have to ask this: how high is her bail? In which state was she arrested? That might help me give you some more information. Also, do you know who this lawyer is that the husband has retained? (Moreover, *has* that lawyer been retained?) Is public defense even on the table, or is he ruling that out? Jack, I'm blown away by what you've told me about Macedonia. I have to look into that more. How interesting that that country--not exactly known for progressive policies in general--would be light years ahead of ours in this regard. Linda, I still owe you a response. Things have been a bit hectic over here. My own partner is still under correctional supervision, and the ever-present, daily stressors of our struggles through his two-year jail/prison sentence; his employment hurdles related to a felony record; steep LFOs (legal financial obligations, including *paying for the sting/snitch operation* that got him arrested in the first place); and the ongoing, everyday possibility that his parole could be revoked for any number of things including drinking any kind of alcohol (although his n/v offense had nothing to do with that); or even *walking* through a Seattle "drug zone" without an official reason for being in such an area, can technically get him locked up again. And get this. Most of central/downtown Seattle is classified as a drug zone. My apartment is in this zone, as well, which is incredible to contemplate. Technically, he could be arrested if he's standing at the bus stop outside. Now, in real life, that's unlikely to happen, but that's how absurd these laws are. Again, Maria, you have my empathy and compassion ... and I truly feel for your sister. :-( Clearly, she needs help. In cases like this, sending someone away to a jail or prison term isn't just cold-hearted, it's bound to hinder her own shot at recovery. That said, some women I've interviewed have certainly told me that were it not for an arrest, they wouldn't have been jolted out of a self-destructive spiral. I hope that the latter ends up being true for her, and that you can serve as a support to her in that process.
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