‘Trapped by Patriarchy: Women in Prison’ by Temima Fruchter (2001)

Preserving Women's Work

“Females are secondary.”
“This statement, made in 1998 by Andrew Winston, the chairman of the Virginia Board of Corrections, essentially sums up the position of women in the larger scheme of the U.S. prison hierarchy. Winston conceded that this is the unfortunate case in terms of the design of many American prisons and inmate services. Most of these services, he stated at the 1998 Friends of Incarcerated Women conference, are built to benefit males.
Because of this still-true case of nationwide neglect, such things as “male guards touching prisoners’ breasts and genitals during daily pat-downs and strip searches, watching women as they shower and dress and…selling women to male inmates for sex” were cited as being “common practice” by a 1999 Report by Amnesty International entitled Not Part of My Sentence: Violations of the Human Rights of Women in Custody.

Author(s): Temima Fruchter

Source: Off Our Backs, Vol. 31, No. 2, Our Sisters In Prison: What are they doing there? (February 2001), p.1

Trapped by Patriarchy – Women in Prison

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‘Women and the Prison Industrial Complex’ – by Val Codd (2001)

Preserving Women's Work

“The U.S. war on drugs has become a war on women, specifically women of color. According to a Department of Justice Report, since federal drug laws ushered in mandatory sentencing in 1986, the incarceration rate for women has increased 400 percent, and the figure for black women is 800 percent. While the current rate of imprisonment for black women is more than eight times that for white women, the rate for Latina women is four times that for white women, according
to Amnesty International.”

Author(s): Val Codd

Source: Off Our Backs, Vol. 31, No. 2, Our Sisters In Prison: What are they doing there? (February 2001), p. 8

Women & The Prison Industrial Complex (Link)

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‘Women in Prison Tell It Like It Is’ – from Off Our Backs, Women’s News Journal (2001)

Preserving Women's Work

“I am a woman. I am a battered woman. I am a battered woman incarcerated with a life sentence, no possibility of parole. In our society, being a battered woman is a life sentence anyway. I don’t see the point of underscoring it by the courts.
A battered woman is sometimes faced with the choice of kill or be killed.
If she gives up a life of physical, sexual, verbal and/or emotional abuse by her partner by killing him, she dooms herself to the same treatment by the “system.”
A battered woman is isolated from family and friends by her abuser; the system does the same thing. An abuser strips a woman of her identity and dignity; the system does the same thing…”
Author(s): Darcy K. War Bonnett, Deborah Bounds, Karen R. Paese and Shannon R. Houser

Source: Off Our Backs, Vol. 31, No. 2, Our Sisters In Prison: What are they doing there? (February 2001), pp. 9-12

Women in Prison Tell…

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‘Gender Effects Along the Juvenile Justice System: Evidence of a Gendered Organization’

‘Gender Effects Along the Juvenile Justice System: Evidence of a Gendered Organization’.

via ‘Gender Effects Along the Juvenile Justice System: Evidence of a Gendered Organization’.

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Women A & B

Two women, described in court as ‘obsessed fans’ of Ian Watkins, (lead-singer of the band Lostprophets) have plead guilty to charges of sexual-abuse relating to their own children.

In order to protect the children’s identity, the women are to remain anonymous.

The court heard they were both young fans in their twenties when they sexually abused their babies (a boy & a girl) ‘at the behest of Watkins’.

One woman was told by Watkins via Skype ‘if you are mine, then so is your baby’. She was said to have ‘idolized’ the singer; who the judge described as a ‘determined and committed’ child-abuser.

There are reports that an ex-girlfriend of Watkins exposed him last year after he suggested ‘a plan’ to rape her sister’s one year old daughter. He was charged with 24 counts of child abuse and rape in December 2012, but maintained his innocence until the first day of the trial, November 26th 2013.

He plead guilty to 11 of the 24 charges, including two of attempting to rape a baby. 

Detective Chief Inspector, Peter Doyle of the investigating Police Force said, “There is no doubt in my mind that Ian Watkins exploited his celebrity status in order to abuse young children. Today’s outcome does not mark the end of our investigations.”

The three will be sentenced on December 18th 2013.

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Gertrude Baniszewski

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When I was a little girl, and I mean a very little girl, maybe 7 or 8, my favorite book was Bloodletters and Badmen by Jay Robert Nash. If you haven’t heard of it, and you have any interest in the “true crime” genre, I recommend it. It is essentially an encyclopedia of (mostly) man’s inhumanity to man.  The summary that I remembered the most, though, the entry that haunted me as a little girl and haunts me now still, was for Gertrude Baniszewski.

Gertrude Baniszewski tortured a 16-year-old girl to death. Specifically, this girl.

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Sylvia Likens

It was Sylvia’s greatest misfortune to come under the care of Gertrude. The two weren’t related. Rather, Sylvia’s family abandoned her to Gertrude, as they travelled around with a carnival (and “what kind of life is that for a child,” went the thinking). Her parents promised to send money to Gertrude to care for Sylvia and her sister, Jenny. But money was slow in coming, and Gertrude became increasingly resentful of the girls’ presence in her home.

Gertrude took a special dislike to Sylvia. In her terrifying book, The Basement, Kate Millet reflects on “Why Sylvia?” Maybe she was too uppity; maybe she talked back; maybe she was prettier than Gertrude; maybe Gertrude desired her.  Over a period of time during which her distress perhaps would have been noticed had she not been the abandoned daughter of carnival workers, Gertrude, some of her children and two neighborhood boys tortured Sylvia to death.  When she was found, dead, in the basement of Gertrude’s house, on the abdomen had been carved the words “I am a prostitute and proud of it.”

“I am a prostitute and proud of it.”

This is what Gertrude thinks of Sylvia.

Women should not do these things. Women do, in fact, do these things. The question of why women do these things is explored elsewhere, most notably in Phyllis Chesler’s Women’s Inhumanity to Women.

“Before I began research for this book I was not consciously aware that women were aggressive in indirect ways, that they gossiped and ostracized each other incessantly, and did not acknowledge their own envious and competitive feelings. I now understand that, in order to survive as a woman, among women, one must speak carefully, cautiously, neutrally, indirectly; one must pay careful attention to what more socially powerful women have to say before one speaks; one must learn how to flatter, manipulate, agree with, and appease them. And, if one is hurt or offended by another woman, one does not say so outright; one expresses it indirectly, by turning others against her. Of course, I refuse to learn these “girlish” lessons.” 

 

Gertrude learned them all too well. She died in 1991, having been paroled 5 years earlier.

Was these “a man” behind Gertrude’s depravity? She had several failed, abusive marriages. She suffered from depression. To the extent she learned how to “be a woman” in this world, the answer is, as it is for all women, yes.  Does this excuse her behavior? No. No, it does not.

No girl is garbage.

Not Sylvia.

And not Gertrude either.

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RetroIndy_ The 1965 murder of Sylvia Likens _ Indianapolis Star _ indystar.

Monster mom Gertrude Baniszewski and teen cohorts torture Sylvia Likens to death in Indiana boarding house of horror – Page 1 – NY Daily News.

Monster mom Gertrude Baniszewski and teen cohorts torture Sylvia Likens to death in Indiana boarding house of horror – NY Daily News.

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Sylvia Rostron

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Sylvia and Kelvin Rostron are on trial this week at a Lancashire court, accused of abusing children under 16 over a number of years in a care home they ran together during the 1960s and 70s.

Mr Rostron, 70, is accused by one victim of ‘coming into her room on school nights while everybody else was asleep and waking her up before cuddling and sexually assaulting her’.

Another victim said that he ‘hated Mr Rostron with a vengeance, but that he had not been big enough at the time to do anything about it.’

One described Mrs Rostron as someone who picked on children in the home, ‘she would be nice one day, then horrible a few days later.’

During a police investigation, another alleged victim came forward and accused Mr Rostron of beating children, making them stand naked outside and depriving them of sleep.

He said Mrs Rostron, 65, also indecently assaulted him on several occasions. This included washing him in the bath when he was a teenager.

It was also claimed that she would ‘commonly fail to wear underwear’.

The homes cannot be named for legal reasons. Both defendants, from Rishton, face two charges of child cruelty.

Mr Rostron is also accused of three counts of indecent assault and his wife faces five charges of indecent assault. They deny all of the offences.

The case continues.

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