Women Entering Prison At Higher Rate Than Any Other Group

The public needs to have more access to information about the varying policies of restraint use, said Jacqueline Robarge, director of Power Inside, a Baltimore-based re-entry group that serves formerly incarcerated women.

“Even if they only have one pregnancy per year, or one pregnancy per five years, we really don’t want this happening to anyone, ever, because of the enduring trauma,” Robarge said.

Co-Mingling

Maryland is not the only state with just one female prison. Connecticut, Delaware and West Virginia also have a single women’s-only prison, according to a 2000 Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The Maryland Correctional Institute for Women at Jessup has 765 female inmates, according to data from an April 2013 inmate characteristic report. Overall, there are 854 women in the state corrections system, including women in the Baltimore City Detention Center for women, the Patuxent Institution, an intensive treatment facility that includes male and female inmates, and the Central Home Detention Unit, which monitors women in their homes.

The other states with a single female prison also house inmates from all security levels: minimum, medium and maximum. There have been concerns among prison reformers and former inmates about the safety and treatment of women who are in lower security levels in these situations.

“Because we only have that one prison for females, you sleep next to people who are murderers,” Davis said.

The housing of multiple security levels is not unique and also happens in male prisons, Vernarelli wrote in an email.

“The populations are separated and there are no issues with this standard practice,” Vernarelli wrote.

One-fifth of Jessup inmates are in prison for murder, and nearly 20 percent for larceny, according to the April 2013 report. Another fifth were charged with drug offenses.
“If you only have one women’s prison, the default would become the most secure level because there might be some number of women who require that, so everybody’s bumped up,” Mauer said.

Rehabilitation

While many prisons try to help inmates through rehabilitation programs, some women find few opportunities available.

Vernarelli points to the prison’s GED program, behavior management classes and Sew Shop, where inmates make the red, black and yellow flags that fly at state facilities across Maryland.

But for Griffith, the lack of college courses available to her was a frustrating aspect of prison life.

“There were no opportunities for me there,” Griffith said, although she did start the prison’s Wiccan group, which had around 10 members by the time she left. Griffith, who takes online classes at the University of Maryland, University College, was in the prison from November 2009 until January 2011.

Griffith, a former accountant and chief financial officer who had been in prison twice before, found that there were few chances to better herself once she was inside, especially at the age of 52.

“Maryland punishes you, but it doesn’t rehabilitate you,” Griffith said.

 

By: Lucy Westcott