How solitary confinement destroys women

“When a prisoner is in solitary, visits are more likely to take place through video conferencing, where the mother and child are in separate buildings,” said Gail Smith from CLAIM, an organization in Chicago that provides legal aid to prisoners on family law issues. “This is a terrible thing to do to a child, to have them travel three or four hours to see their mom and not even be able to hug her.”

If you’re child is in foster care, the situation can be ever more dire. “Up to 20 percent of women in prison have children in foster homes,” Smith said. “These women are required to demonstrate ‘reasonable progress’ in order to prevent that child from being permanently taken away from them. This includes drug treatment, anger-management, parenting classes and survivor groups, all of which they are barred from while in solitary. Everything is at stake … they may never be able to see their children again.”

Incarcerated women are twice as likely to be rape survivors than women in general, and abuse often continues in prison. “There’s a causal development for many women prisoners between being separated from their children, past trauma, depression and suicide,” said Terry Kupers, a California psychiatrist who focuses on the effects of prolonged isolation on prisoners. “There’s a general rule in psychology that men get angry and women get depressed, this principle is taken to its extremity in solitary.”

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