My Time at the Women's Prison
Yesterday, I spent two hours inside the confines of the Indiana Women’s Prison (their new facility on Girls School Rd.) and left with my head spinning. It’s actually hard for me to wrap my head around the experience, the emotions and the thoughts I’ve had since the site visit, which was hosted by Women’s Fund for OPTIONS alumnae, board members and members of the grantees committee. I was one of 18 women who took advantage of the site visit – and one of several (if not all of us) who was greatly impacted by the visit.
I have to admit, as I checked in with the prison guard I was a little nervous. I’m guilty of watching too many prison/police shows on television, so I walked in expecting to see 500 of Indiana’s hardest criminals walking around a rough and tough prison yard. What I saw was a woman running (and later met an inmate who is training for a mini-marathon); we saw loving mothers caring for their infants; we saw women studying for their GEDs; and women learning about horticulture and cosmetology.
- We visited the Wee Ones nursery, which houses about 10 women and infants at one time. These women are serving time for nonviolent crimes and have the opportunity to participate in the nursery if they have 18 months or less to serve after their delivery date.
- We visited the Program Building, which among many of the programs it houses is the Family Preservation Program, funded by Women’s Fund. Here, women get to spend up to four extra hours a month interacting (and bonding) with their family. As one woman told us, “my son wouldn’t call me ‘mom’ if it weren’t for this program.”
- We met some of the incredible staff dedicated to the safety, education and rehabilitation of the woman housed at the Indiana Women’s Prison.
- The most impactful moment was meeting five inmates who spoke candidly with us about their experience, their hopes for the children and more. They spoke honestly about the programs and support systems needed to break the cycle within families and to prevent repeat offenders.
I was pleasantly surprised by everything I learned yesterday – and I look forward to sharing in more detail some of the programs offered at Indiana Women’s Prison and those funded by Women’s Fund through future posts. In the meantime, I leave you with a comment one woman shared with us before we left.
“Yes, we have committed a crime, but we are mothers, daughters, grandparents, nieces, sisters and friends. We made bad choices that led us here, but through your help and through the help of Women’s Fund, we are working to turn our lives around. Remember, we are people too. Thank you being here and thank you for caring.”