inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #26 of 58: Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Sat 5 Apr 08 15:50
Wait, what? 

Where did you buy these misprinted books? Can you please give me the
names of the bookstores/cities/states (and/or did you buy online?), so
that I can have this tracked? This is the first I've heard of this, and
it's alarming, to say the least.

I just went through a few boxes I have at home, and they're all in

Re: chapters online, it's not possible right now ... it would be a
violation of the book contract.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #27 of 58: Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Sat 5 Apr 08 16:19

I've got messages into the folks at Seal and Perseus about this, so I
hope to have some answers soon re: the misprintings. Again, please post
here or email me directly if you have that info. about where you've
been sold a misprint. 

In lieu of the availability of the chapters online or by e-mail (which
I really can't send you according to the very specific terms of the
contract), I provided those links to articles/interviews where I
address many of the broader questions asked here. 

To answer w/ the specific stats re: mental illness--

According to the latest data, female rates of mental illness manifest
at 73% of prisoners in state facilities, compared to 55% of men. In
federal prisons, 61% of females have a mental ilness, versus 43.6% for

The highest figures are found in local jails, the first entry point in
the CJ system for people who run afoul of the law. There, over 3/4
(75.4%) of women have mental illnesses of one kind or another, compared
with 62.8% of men ... both genders, clearly, have far, far higher
rates than those of people in the 'free world,' although women
prisoners exceed men's rates across the board. 

Three out of four prisoners, overall, are dependent on drugs when they
are arrested. Throughout the CJ system, social workers and
psychologists (as well as criminal defense lawyers) will attest to the
fact that drug abuse and mental illness often go hand in hand.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #28 of 58: Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Sat 5 Apr 08 16:46
Jack, I'm sure you can attest to the above. What you've witnessed,
according to your earlier posts, is a harrowing reality of your line of
work. People in our respective professions frequently suffer with the
same kind of 'secondary trauma,' as it's called. Similarly, the access
to prisoners and the cluelessness we encounter about the actual rights
of prisoners to counsel, to confidential legal mail, etc. 

I want to answer that earlier question about dealing with corrections
personnel, but first, for the folks (like me) who need their stats,

According to the most recent national data (1999, BJS) on the subject

* One in 4 female prisoners versus 1 in 20 male prisoners reported
sexual abuse before they turned 18;

* One in 4 female prisoners versus 1 in 10 men reported physical abuse
before they turned 18;

* Among state prisoners, 1/2 (52%) of women were abused at *some*
point before incarceration, compared with 16% of men;

* Among federal prisoners, 40% of women reported the same, compared
with 7% of men;

* Among jail inmates, 48% of women reported the same, compared with 
13% of men;

* Among probationers, 40% of women reported the same, compared with 9%
of men;

* Of the women abused before incarceration, over half reported that
they had been assaulted/injured/abused by spouses or partners, 1/3 by
parents/guardians. One-half of abused men, in contrast, reported their
parents/guardians were the perpetrators;

* Abused females were very likely to have experienced one or more kind
of abuse as both juveniles and adults. Among men, abuse usually fell
into either the juvenile or adult experience. 

* Former prisoners who were in foster care reported the absolute
highest rates of abuse. Nearly *9 in 10( female prisoners were abused
before the age of 18 in foster care. Among male prisoners, that figure
was roughly half as prevalent as that of the females, at 44%.

All of these stats point to people in prison with tremendous histories
of pain, abuse, mental illness (and chronic physical illness, as
well), and substance abuse rates. 

But the fact remains that females come into the system with
abuse/trauma/mental illness at rates far above those of men. It's a sad
reflection of our society as a whole, and of the inadequacy of the
criminal justice system to address such problems. In fact, I would
argue (as I believe most people in this field would), that the scope of
the problems are so vast that the lock-em-up formula is bound to
backfire in most cases. I believe that sky high recidivism rates
demonstrate that very clearly.  
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #29 of 58: Mrs. Bigby Hind (jessica) Sat 5 Apr 08 17:48
I'll check the exact pages and let you know -- instead of the correct run of
pages, earlier chapters are repeated. This book was sent to me by the Well
as part of the inkwell.vue program, so however those were obtained is the
place to look for tracking.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #30 of 58: Jack King (gjk) Sat 5 Apr 08 18:20
I got my copy through the Well and it was OK, which is odd.

Silja, the journalists I deal with complain constantly about getting
access to prisoners.  How hard was that for you?  You interviewed
probably 100 women for this book, and I assume that meant a great deal
of visits.

I think you also said above that a federal prison barred you
completely. Federal prison wardens sometimes just bar journalists
period.  That's in the warden's discretion according to the BOP
guidelines and I don't think there's a damn thing prisoner or reporter
can do about it.

How would you advise journalists on gaining access to prisons?
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #31 of 58: Maria Rosales (rosmar) Mon 7 Apr 08 14:00
I also got my copy through the WELL and it is fine.

Thank you for all those statistics.  They are very interesting.  As
you mentioned earlier, some of the gender differences may be in

And a huge WOW on the foster care abuse rates for women who end up in
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #32 of 58: Straight Outta Concord (angus) Mon 7 Apr 08 20:41

        Years, probably decades, ago, I heard anecdotally that women's
prison sentences tended to be longer than men's because of crowding not 
being as bad in women's prisons.
        What I've read of the book makes me think that's no longer the 
case, if it ever was.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #33 of 58: Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Tue 8 Apr 08 07:37
Thanks, folks, for the book misprint info. The people at Seal say
they've gotten no complaints so far from any of the distributors and
just went through and checked their own in-house supply & found no
weird copies there. So, anyone who has a weird-o copy *please* get it
exchanged where you bought it.

In the case of the people who got them through the Well, would you let
Cynthia know directly--or whoever sent it to you? If she contacts Seal
directly & lets them know that one of these copies got sent to her,
she'll be able to get a replacement copy from the PR person directly. 

Jack, yes, I interviewed many women for the book. Actually, the number
was in the hundreds insofar as *some* form of an interview or piece of

Let me think about how to phrase the answer to the question about how
to gain access to a prison. It's a great question, to be sure. More on
that later today.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #34 of 58: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 8 Apr 08 07:55
I guess one of the questions I was left with at the end of the book is
what in the world one can do about this situation.  It seems that the
forces that are driving more and more women into prison are vast
societal forces -- basically the drug war and our unwillingness to
devote resources to the treatment of the mentally ill.  And both of
these in turn are reflections (at least in my opinion) of major
currents in American culture.  We tend to think that social problems
come from bad people, and the solution is to punish or isolate (or
kill) those people.

Where do we begin? 
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #35 of 58: Mrs. Bigby Hind (jessica) Tue 8 Apr 08 08:22
I've been thinking about that big question too, and wondering if in addition
to trying to address the large issues through political action we can also
help in small ways by becoming involved in the lives of one or more
incarcerated people. It's a small thing, but one fact that has stuck with me
since I read this is that a handful of grapes becomes an unimaginable luxury
to a prisoner whose diet is completely devoid of fresh fruit. Are there ways
to become a friend to an individual and to help provide them with some of
these small items, visits, outside advocacy, letters, and friendship in a
way that would make a difference in their experience?
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #36 of 58: Jack King (gjk) Tue 8 Apr 08 08:37

Don't be sending any contraband, like fruit.  Your penpal will end up in the
hole for a couple of weeks, since they can't punish you.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #37 of 58: Mrs. Bigby Hind (jessica) Tue 8 Apr 08 09:31
Well, obviously. Anyway, grapes do lousy in the mail, unless you are Harry &
David, which I am not.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #38 of 58: Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Wed 9 Apr 08 03:20
I would advise against grapes! ;-)

Getting into each prison requires a different approach. The ones
rocked by scandal have to be cajoled into giving the permission. In
other words, sometimes I even reference the scandal and say that I'm
looking to hear, first-hand, what the prison administration has to say
about the situation, and to see conditions for myself. And that's not a
lie, by any means. The emphasis on giving the administrators and
employees the chance to set the record straight is an appealing one, to
be sure.

Initially, I also explain that my work sets out to tell stories with
*complexity.* I emphasize that I am as interested in talking with the
people in charge as well as with the prisoners, and I reassure them as
to the quality of my work. With publisher's letters attesting to the
future publication of the work, with emphasis on my journalism awards,
etc., I usually get a call back rather quickly.

But that isn't the case all the time. In the case of LA County Jail, I
had to work on them for a half of a year. Each request was ignored,
until I simply began calling regularly, and then, every day. If nothing
else, I made it clear at that point that I wasn't going away just
because I was being ignored. (Or avoided, as the case often has been.)

mcdee, the potential solutions to this mass incarceration craze can
take so many forms. The book after this next one I'm starting work on 
now, will actually address those very issues. 

I'm actually interested in having this discussion with you all. I have
ideas, but I want to hear yours, as well.

More later!  I still haven't gotten to all of what I want to respond
to! I'm on deadline all tomorrow, but will get in here again as soon as
I can! 

I am interested to hear from those of you who have read the book what
chapters or aspects of WBB surprised or stirred you the most. How many
of you were already somewhat exposed to criminal justice issues before
reading Women Behind Bars? 

And how many of you have loved ones behind bars? Have any of you
visited loved ones in jail or prison, or done time? If you don't want
share in this public space, pls. do feel free to email me directly. I
learn from my readers all the time, and I'm genuinely grateful for the
opportunity to learn from people who are willing to share their stories
with me to any extent. 
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #39 of 58: Jack King (gjk) Wed 9 Apr 08 03:47

I was already painfully aware of the complete and utter indifference to
serious medical problems throughout our correctional facilities, reckless
indifference that amounts to violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition
on cruel and unusual punishment, in my opinion. At common law, when you
assert control and responsibility for the life of another, you create a
special relationship that imposes a *higher* duty of care for that person.

So the story of Gina Munoz, who pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery ($200),
got life with parole, and developed cervical cancer in the LA County lockup
and then was denied treatment at Central Cal Women's really got me.

In her case, life meant "life" due to denial of necessary treatment.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #40 of 58: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 9 Apr 08 05:33
Obviously, I have nothing like Jack's knowledge of or involvement in
the issue. I'm from a painfully law-abiding family on both sides (other
than my grandmother once working as a bookkeeper for a bootlegger in
Rock Island, Illinois).

However, as a kid I heard the late Mr. Ochs' song "There, But for
Fortune" and thought "yup!"

Over the years, I've done a lot of reading on the general subject --
everything from popular "true crime" to much more serious academic
stuff and personal memoirs.  I've emerged with a great lack of sympathy
for the true predators among us, but also with recognition that for
every Ted Bundy there are a thousand (if not 100,000) people who get
caught up in the system initially for low-level bullshit often related
to the fact that their family is falling apart and/or abusive.  Not to
mention the people who get caught up in it because they have a
substance abuse problem and the substance happens to be one that's

And oddly, one thing that sparked my interest in prisons specifically
was a long-ago ferry ride in San Francisco.  I ended up sitting next to
a very large and muscular guy who had been released from San Quentin a
couple of days previous and had spent his time since drinking and
doing other drugs.  He decided I was his pal, which is fortunate.  And
I guess I was his pal, in a way.  I spent much of the ferry ride
talking him out of the notion that "that bitch" over in the next row of
seats was looking at him funny and that he should do serious violence
to her.  And various other related thoughts (in reality, the woman he
was convinced was looking at him was serenely unaware of his

That experience gave me a lot to think about for a long time, even
though it was a very brief encounter. 

inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #41 of 58: Maria Rosales (rosmar) Wed 9 Apr 08 15:18
I have several family members (uncles and cousins) who've spent time
in prison, but all are men.  So far only one of my siblings has been
behind bars, and that was jail rather than prison.  (He was very
lucky--he carjacked a car while high on meth and got drug court instead
of prison when he plea-bargained.  He was a huge success story in my
mind, except that recently he has started using crank again.)

Before I read your book I had read one article about incarcerated
juveniles that focused on girls.  There were similar themes, like the
harsher treatment of girls who violate gender norms, and the history of
abuse.  But your book was much more depressing, partly because it is
not written in academicese, and partly because its length allowed you
to go into several issues, such as the "God Pod" and "Shipping Women's
Bodies" that I'd never heard about before.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #42 of 58: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 9 Apr 08 17:10

sisu, can you elaborate on what those are?
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #43 of 58: Charles Edward Lincoln, III (celiii) Thu 10 Apr 08 00:37
I want to make people aware of a very unusual case in Arcadia,
Florida. A woman named Nancy Jo Grant, a native of DeSoto County whose
lived in this upper waterlogged savannah north of the Everglades for
most of her entire life, has dedicated her life to helping prisoners in
the Florida Jail system, and she now finds herself in jail for no
crime other than JUST THAT: dedicating her life to helping prisoners. 
Nancy was arrested February 19, 2008, and is now entering her third
month in the DeSoto County Jail awaiting a hearing on revocation of her
probation for UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW (which basically consisted
of providing prisoners with a form they could use when they had been
held for an excessively long time without trial).  Nancy is DEFINITELY
the first woman ever to be jailed after a trial-by-jury for
Unauthorized Practice of Law.  There have been other prosecutions, but
Nancy was sentenced to 15 years probation last August, and the intent
was obviously to trap her and put her in jail.  Nancy NEVER made any
money out of her activities, in fact she SPENT money helping others. 
At her trial, the Judge Expressly forbade Nancy or her attorney (Andrew
Mooney of Bradenton, Florida) from introducing any evidence or
arguments concerning violations of the First Amendment.  The most
interesting thing about Nancy Jo Grant's two months in prison is that
she is violent, certainly not.  NOT because she is suicidal or has
threatened to harm herself (even more certainly not).  No, Nancy Jo
Grant has simply refused to promise the DeSoto County Sheriff or any
other prison officials that she will not talk to other prisoners and
share her knowledge and experience with them.  In a strange way, then,
Nancy is not only being punished for what she has done but what she
might do: she might educate other female prisoners about their rights.
For YEARS now, the U.S. Supreme Court has required states to give great
latitude to prisoners to violate the "outside world" prohibition on
Unauthorized Practice of Law.  "Jailhouse lawyers" are commonly allowed
to prepare pleadings and motions for other less literate prisoners.
Nancy is thus being denied the rights that are granted to convicted
murderers, bankrobbers, rapists, and even politicians convicted of
violating the criminal provisions of the McCain-Feingold Act.  There is
absolutely no justication for what is going on in Nancy's case.  Her
confinement is cruel and unusual punishment, on the one hand, but it is
for the illegitimate purpose of denying her First Amendment rights to
freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom to petition
which, even within the confines of jail are not meant to be
limited---because even convicted murderers have these freedoms within
the confines of the cement walls and steel doors.
The existence of "integrated state bars" is a rare form of the
State-Action exception to the most fundamentally American Antitrust
Laws--which but for the So-called Parker Doctrine would be absolutely
illegal as a restraint on trade in suppression of fundamental rights.  
The incompetence or at best mediocrity of the American Legal System
and probably 99% of the members of the legal profession is a curse to
most prisoners and has been for many years.  And in the confines of the
fields of family law, child custody and welfare, the State Bar
monopoly is a curse to many "free" citizens "on the outside," because
it pretends a monopoly on the most fundamental and necessary knowledge
about how to live in a free society---knowledge of the supposedly
democratically created legal system.  
But the monopoly of licensed attorneys over the practice of law
amounts to the restoration of a peerage in these United States---a
group of "courtiers" whose "admission" or banishment from Court
determines their power---and the course of history in the realm.  And
of course, the worst part about the State Bar Monopoly is the corrupt
collusion between Judges and Attorneys---which everyone knows but no
one admits, because it is just too dangerous to criticize judges---it
can be hazardous to your life, liberty, and property in a country which
has all but forgotten what due process of law might mean....and in
which profits from the vast "correctional services industry" are one of
the few growth industries in this sad, benighted, "Land of the Free."
Nancy Jo Grant ran for Governor of Florida in 2000 and was planning on
running again.  Her story is told in more depth at
and at  
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #44 of 58: Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Fri 11 Apr 08 06:15
Thank you for telling me about Grant's case. I want to look into it. 

Maria, your experience with family members in the criminal justice
system/imprisonment is the kind of thing that people don't think about
as much as they should: the collateral consequences, so to speak, of
having loved ones loved up. 

Namely, there's a tremendous emotional and often financial toll
involved ... families can literally go bankrupt dealing with legal and
lawyer fees, securing bail bonds, and monopoly-controlled commissary
costs (so that prisoners can eat something other than illness-inducing
slop or, worse yet, "Nutraloaf"), as well as collect phone calls that
can run $4-20 for a 15-minute call. As so many jails/prisons are
located in far-off locations, those phone calls are a lifeline for
prisoners and their family/spouses alike. It's a horrible system of
kickbacks to departments of correction for allowing these monopolies. 

Linda, I'd be happy to elaborate on those two chapters. I've been up
all night on a story about the connection between woman killed in a
privately-run prison, and a Republican stalwart nominated by Bush to a
federal district court judgeship. 

I've got to grab a cat nap and finish the story this morning. It
should be on the In These Times website sometime next week, and I'll
post it here then.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #45 of 58: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 11 Apr 08 12:46

No hurry!
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #46 of 58: Maria Rosales (rosmar) Sat 12 Apr 08 14:21
This topic jinxed me, I think.  One of my sisters was arrested the day
before yesterday, and her husband is asking me to send him $5000 for a
lawyer.  Which I'm not going to send, but it reminded me of your point
about the costs to the family.  

My sister was arrested for stealing and having meth and a pipe on her
when she was caught.  I'm hoping that the fact that this is her first
arrest will mean that they cut her a break.  (She also has a child born
in August, and another who is 13.  Which also reminded me of your

Good luck with your story, <sisu>.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #47 of 58: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sat 12 Apr 08 14:28
I dream of an America where we stop persecuting people with substance
abuse and/or mental health issues.  Is that too much to ask for?  
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #48 of 58: Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 12 Apr 08 17:48

inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #49 of 58: Jack King (gjk) Sun 13 Apr 08 17:49
Some years ago, during the second Clinton administration, the State
dept. used to bring defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges over here
to the USA, particularly from the former Eastern Block.  The reason I
mention this was a public defender from Macedonia, circa 1996, was
horrified that we lock people up for possession of small amounts of
drugs.  In Macedonia, possession of 14 grams of heroin or cocaine or a
half kilo of opium is treated as a public health problem.  You only go
to jail if you refuse treatment, and if you are jailed for refusing
treatment, you get out the day after you agree to treatment.

Under state and federal law here, possession of a half ounce of
cocaine or heroin, or a pound of opium, is an automatic term of years,
no treatment alternative available.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #50 of 58: Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Sun 13 Apr 08 21:33
This is horrible to hear. Please don't think this topic jinxed you. In
fact, I think that you're going to be armed with more information and,
most certainly, some people to talk to about this who genuinely care
and don't judge. On the contrary, I'm outraged that this happened to
her. If she's smoking meth/ice, she's hurting terribly. Prosecuting
people like this, as many of you have mentioned, is absolutely

My heart goes out to you. Please let me know if I can help somehow
with advice or just emotional support.

W/r/t the money the husband is asking for, I do have to ask this: how
high is her bail? In which state was she arrested? That might help me
give you some more information. Also, do you know who this lawyer is
that the husband has retained? (Moreover, *has* that lawyer been
retained?) Is public defense even on the table, or is he ruling that

Jack, I'm blown away by what you've told me about Macedonia. I have to
look into that more. How interesting that that country--not exactly
known for progressive policies in general--would be light years ahead
of ours in this regard. 

Linda, I still owe you a response. Things have been a bit hectic over
here. My own partner is still under correctional supervision, and the
ever-present, daily stressors of our struggles through his two-year
jail/prison sentence; his employment hurdles related to a felony
record; steep LFOs (legal financial obligations, including *paying for
the sting/snitch operation* that got him arrested in the first place);
and the ongoing, everyday possibility that his parole could be revoked
for any number of things including drinking any kind of alcohol
(although his n/v offense had nothing to do with that); or even
*walking* through a Seattle "drug zone" without an official reason for
being in such an area, can technically get him locked up again. 

And get this. Most of central/downtown Seattle is classified as a drug
zone. My apartment is in this zone, as well, which is incredible to
contemplate. Technically, he could be arrested if he's standing at the
bus stop outside. Now, in real life, that's unlikely to happen, but
that's how absurd these laws are. 

Again, Maria, you have my empathy and compassion ... and I truly feel
for your sister. :-( Clearly, she needs help. In cases like this,
sending someone away to a jail or prison term isn't just cold-hearted,
it's bound to hinder her own shot at recovery. 

That said, some women I've interviewed have certainly told me that
were it not for an arrest, they wouldn't have been jolted out of a
self-destructive spiral. I hope that the latter ends up being true for
her, and that you can serve as a support to her in that process.


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