by Michelle Cale, guest blogger
I first went to prison in May 2010. Luckily for me, I was able to leave the same day because I was just a visitor. I was part of a group invited by Get On The Bus, a nonprofit organization that had recently brought together mothers incarcerated in the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) with their children, who had been brought by bus from across California. For me, while this visit was a life-changing experience, it was just a day. For the women I met at the CCWF – part of the largest women’s prison complex in the world – this was their life.
We “outsiders” heard stories about overcrowding, lack of basic healthcare and preventative screenings, rationing of sanitary pads and toilet rolls, random strip searches and invasions of privacy, violence and abuse involving both guards and other inmates. We heard about the women’s frustrations and disappointments – one of the most painful examples being that children come to visit, but are turned away because they have the wrong paperwork. We heard these women, many of them in their twenties and thirties, open their hearts about the mistakes they had made, and the way their failures had led to the fracturing of their families and the loss of their children. It was clear that the bond these women still felt with their children, many of whom they had seen that Mothers’ Day for the first time in years, was the only thing keeping them hopeful, wanting to do well, get out, and stay out. Read More