, 26 tweets, 15 min read
This SO COOL: The new issue of @wpmagazine is written & 📷 entirely by people who did time. I am so proud to be one of them. I think this is the best thing I’ve ever written. Here’s the story - about women in jail - and a thread: washingtonpost.com/magazine/2019/…
@wpmagazine When I was arrested in 2010, I was shocked by so many things about jail - including how hard it was to be a woman behind bars. Toilet paper, bras, visiting children, periods - all the hurdles of being a women IRL were just magnified in jail & prison.
@wpmagazine And it was hard to get the tools to do better; almost all the programs were geared toward men. The men got four 12-step classes a week. The women got one. The men could be trusties. The women couldn’t.
@wpmagazine They weren’t necessarily intentional inequities - sometimes it was just about the numbers. There were so many more men, the system was geared toward them.
@wpmagazine In the county jail where I was housed, the cells had bars instead of doors, and the cell blocks had long windows running along the wall looking into the hallway.
@wpmagazine Passing by, you could see right into the cells. Every time we went to the bathroom or changed a tampon, any male guard or inmate walking by could stare right in and see us.

It was a level of gender-specific humiliation I had not anticipated.
@wpmagazine I still feel a rising blush of shame when I think about it nine years later.
@wpmagazine Jail is not a great place to be, generally, but I quickly learned it’s specifically not a great place to be a woman. But some places that are trying to do better - it’s part of a growing interest in “gender-responsive corrections,” & that’s what I focused on in this story.
@wpmagazine The word gender responsivity was actually a term I hadn’t heard of until @whitneyjoiner reached out and asked if I would write about it. It seemed intuitive to me - but I’d never heard the word for it.
@wpmagazine @whitneyjoiner The idea is basically that if we pay more attention to women’s specific needs, and their specific traumas, we can get better outcomes and create less trauma.
@wpmagazine @whitneyjoiner Women coming into prison have high rates of trauma & addiction - more so than their male counterparts. They’re more likely to be in for nonviolent crimes, and they’re more likely to be the primary caregiver for a child.
@wpmagazine @whitneyjoiner And that's not even touching on the lack of services for trans women, who have long faced an even broader set of problems - something I didn't touch on in this story, but ofc merits attn. (In general, follow @lmcgaughy for good coverage on these issues.) dallasnews.com/news/2018/05/1…
@wpmagazine @whitneyjoiner @lmcgaughy These things - lack of services, basic supplies - all make a difference. Repeated strip searches or a shouting officer can have a very different impact on a woman with a history of sexual or physical abuse vs. someone w/out that history.
@wpmagazine @whitneyjoiner @lmcgaughy Some jails are working to pay more attention to that - like Las Colinas, the women’s lock-up in San Diego. They’ve become a gold standard for gender responsivity, so in May I went there to learn more in person.
It was not like anything I’d seen - it looked so much like a college campus, not a jail. There was yoga, vocational classes, college, an amphitheatre, a twice-weekly coffee cart. It was still jail - but it was a jail where everyone was trying to do better. 📷 Brian Frank
Brian, btw, is also formerly incarcerated because - again - this entire magazine was written and photographed by people who did time.

Let's pause to think about what a shift in thinking that represents. Can you imagine this 10 years ago? I can't.
The other place I went for this story was Travis County Jail. There, they’re pushing to build a facility that would be a new standard for gender responsivity. It's gotten some local news coverage, but it's such an interesting story. austinchronicle.com/news/2018-09-0…
One of the main people I talked to about the Austin jail plans was @laurenfreenow. She did time there years ago - while pregnant. But then got out and got her shit together, and now works for the ACLU. AND, she's on the committee involved in planning the new jail.
@laurenfreenow For her - and some of the other formerly incarcerated committee members - planning a new jail was a struggle. They WANTED women to have better conditions and programs, but they didn't want to support building a jail.
@laurenfreenow The plan - which is still moving forward - has sparked significant pushback from reformers, and is still controversial.

(Follow @texianna's coverage on this issue.)
@laurenfreenow @texianna Writing this story meant so much to me. It is so wonderful to be able to amplify women’s voices and their needs - and it’s amazing to see a major outlet like @wpmagazine not only paying attention, but valuing the work of formerly incarcerated folks in telling these stories.
@laurenfreenow @texianna @wpmagazine And, writing in this publication was particularly special to me because nine years ago, Washington Post - in its college blog or something - was one of the outlets that wrote about my arrest.
@laurenfreenow @texianna @wpmagazine I shared this fact with some of the women I saw in the Las Colinas jail in San Diego, as we talked about journalism and what it is that reporters do. It was a conversation that will stick with me:
@laurenfreenow @texianna @wpmagazine The women had already been told about me before I arrived. “Are you the lady who was here a long, long time ago?” one asked.

I told them no, I did my time in New York. They had questions. How did I get clean? How did I get my job? What sorts of stories do I write?
@laurenfreenow @texianna @wpmagazine They didn’t ask about how I ended up in jail - we all understood the basics of that. They only asked about what I did after, how I put it back together.

So I told them - I told them about dentures and planted evidence and books. Their eyes were wide.
@laurenfreenow @texianna @wpmagazine One of them told me, “You’re, like a voice for us.” Another looked at me and said, “There’s, like, hope.”

And I basically melted.
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