<h1>Blog & News</h1>
April 25, 2013

Meeting Women I Could Know: My Visit to Indiana Women’s Prison

by Women's Fund

By: Becca Hanson, OPTIONS Class 13
14 Districts

I had heard that the visit to the Indiana Women's Prison was simultaneously an inspiring, heartbreaking and unforgettable site visit (it was). I so looked forward to our OPTIONS class visit, but I was very anxious driving through the prison gates. And I was petrified when those heavy metal doors slammed shut as we moved from one "zone" to the next.

"I am not happy to be in prison, but I am thankful to be here." These words were echoed again and again by the women we met at Indiana Women's Prison (IWP), the oldest women's facility in the country - founded in 1873. These women are thankful for the opportunities at IWP that have allowed them to create healthy blueprints for their lives. IWP has inmates as young as 14 and as old as 87 - serving terms for as little as one year to six life sentences. Some women are pregnant when they arrive.

Daily activities and programs include GED classes, yoga classes (that came as a surprise!), One Net-One Life, a mosquito net project–finished pieces are sent to Africa as part of a malaria-prevention program, and volunteering in the Community Outreach program, which includes making bed rolls for homeless veterans. Everyone works at IWP – as part of the kitchen staff, on the yard crew, training ADA dogs or as a nanny in the Wee Ones nursery (initial funding for which was provided by Women’s Fund). Women are paid $0.12/hour, earning approximately $25/month. Opportunities to pursue a college degree are slim, given budget cuts. Access to counseling is almost non-existent – 1 counselor is available for 1000+ women. This will ultimately impact successful reentries into our communities. Women at IWP need support once their finish their terms. The women were frank about the need for counseling and support from mentors, counselors, and therapists both while incarcerated and once they “reenter” life outside of prison.

My biggest take-aways from our visit:

  • For many of these articulate, sensitive, compassionate women, the cause of their incarceration was "the first time I was ever in trouble." These are truly cases of a single bad decision.
  • For most, two common threads have most negatively impacted their lives, and ultimately led to their incarceration: unstable, troubled childhoods (moving from foster home to foster home, teen pregnancies, abandonment by a parent) and volatile, unhealthy relationships with men. Yet, there is almost no access to counseling in prison.
  • Of the six women we met, most had been imprisoned during their 20’s. Almost all were pregnant when incarcerated or had children that were left with parents or grandparents. As we’ve discussed in our OPTIONS class, there is a gap in services for 20-something women who have “aged out” of programming for girls, yet who desperately need guidance in creating a plan to pursue a college degree, finding a job (and ultimately build a career) and improving parenting skills.

Prior to our visit, I spoke with Jennifer Dzwonar, Co-Chair of the Women’s Fund Communications Advisory Committee, who had already visited the prison, and she said something that struck me – she shared that these women could have been in our high school class; they are women we may interact with at the grocery store or while waiting in line at the post office. She was absolutely right.

The women we met are dynamic, optimistic and compassionate. They accept responsibility for their actions and all are focused on serving their communities both inside of prison and once they are released. They talked most about their kids, their parents, their challenges and their dreams. This is the type of conversation I have every day with my friends.

Photo credits: inumc.org; The Indianapolis Star (Danese Kenon)

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Monday, December 29
I have recently found my daughter after almost 5 yrs. looking for my bby. her name is Alysianna Martin. She was stuck in the trap of a very sick& duranged IDK wht u would call it& it's 2 daughter's. I am Alysianna's bio- mother who not only gave my beautiful bby a name like no other an to fit the beauty that I jst. knew tht she'd be, see when I 1st. found out I was pregnant somehow I knew she was going to be not jst. a regular girl, but this very special & unique bby & so she had to have the name to match & it was Alysianna tht popped into my heart,so any way's I was so right bc she is truly the most precious an beautiful bby & even now as a 21 yr. old woman she's still tht very special person. Well I believed tht my bby wasn't ever going to see or know anything bad,& so for 8 an half yrs. I had her in almost every state, every side show fair,county fair's,state fair's to Disney Land, I had this really bad childhood IDK why I was the way I was,but I always knew there was something wrong,though my childhood was a blank.1 night my husband who had said an touched me the very same way a million&1 x's but tht night for some reason, I was not with him any more,nor was I in my home, it was like I had been snatched back into my childhood& I wasn't jst. remembering it, I was re-living it every touch,smell,feeling an pain I was there all over again, my husband said tht I was out like in a daze for almost 2wks. when I came too, I couldn't believe the horror, the very ppl I loved,trusted & more they all had hurt me in every sick an twisted ways possible from 4 on up. I couldn't handle it,but I had 3 bby's @ home an Alysianna they said hadn't left my side when I was in a trans, reliving my life whtever u want to call it & I could not let my life get in the way of my bby girl an my other 2 bby's. I ended up like a dumbass on drugs thinking tht would end my stress an I could go on taking care an giving my bbys the best.. After a yr. an a wk. of it I had enough bc this was not me, I am not weak, I am not a drug believer, so I had no ideal of wht struggles of detoxing my-self would I go threw, every doc. I had called had all said it would really be bad at 1st. but get easier in time :( I felt like I was failing my bby's & I was not going to hurt them by watching me go threw whtever I was going to go threw, so I had asked my diff. family members & it was alway's 1 excuse after another an yes some was good, but damn these are ur nieces an nephew, cousin's, so I had asked a so called friend to help me bc I jst. could not do this infront of my special bby girl an my 2 younger bby's. Well Alysianna was 2wks. frm. 10 when a friend of many yrs. has showed up an brung this now IK she's a Bitch,liar,no gooded, well anyway's I hurt inside,my soul & my heart jst. died when she went out tht door, it was not long after I went an got her for her 10th bday & took her an her sis. to Chucky Cheese I told Alysianna the truth & ht I wasn't able to have her with me bc I jst. could not do it & see her scared,cry or anything & tht I promised tht in 4 month's or less I would be back & I will be after her as well as her sister the 1st. day I come back to Indy. & I did it was 4 month's of pure hell,but I cleaned,cooked, done every thing I could to keep my mind off the drugs an on to getting better an getting back to my special bby girl & my younger daughter Shauneisa, my son was with his daddy my husband, I was in ky @ my sister's house who had 3 boy's tht was grown an so was their girl friends, I guess I had gotten so bad tht their girl friends would lock thier selves up into their bdrm's. when my nephews was @ work, here I was this 5'11 & 108lbs. when I 1st. got there,but they was all very scared, & if u have grown females so scared I knew I had done the right thing by110% of not letting my bbys come with me. Well I was better, I left ky. came back to Indy, the house tht I owned I went back to it an it had an apt. in the back yard on a seperate lot, the house... I just had to stay away from bc every 1 seen I was back & they was all drug addicts, so I moved to tht apt. & I started walking alley's every day 12-14 hrs. a day p.u can's, aluminum of any kind as well as medal's, I had a wrecker so I saved up$$ to buy a vehicle strip them for their batteries as well as all tht aluminum, radiator's an all then junk the vehicles, it took me 30 day's an I was able to move across twn. where I didn't know any1 an it was this huge brick ranch style home tht had 3bdrm. 2/bath's full house upstair's an dwn. was this 20ft. long an 15ft. wide 2 living rooms 1 in which I had turned into a game room for the girls an my son, it also had the other huge rm. in which I turned into their tv room an there was 4bdrms an 2 full baths dwn. there an so when I called the winch tht had my bbys a total of 5 mos. I told the bby's to come on out of the car an come on in an look at what mommy had gotten for them an now we can go back to being tht very happy an loving family who can start back on going on vacations any where they wanted to as much as they wanted to like before. Lil. did I know tht this bitch had some how gotten checks for my daughter's behind their daddys death an they was getting 623 a mo. each an this bitch had them somehow turned against me, Alysianna said to me tht she wasnt ever coming home to me I was no longer her mother, tht Alysianna wasn't her name it was Marie an if I made her an her sis. come home tht they'd run away an lie on my husband and it jst totally cought me off guard I could not believe wht I was hearing from my bby. I jst fell dwn. my soul an heart had jst been ripped clean out of me... :( I then flashed back to the day's when I was on the street's an America was a whole lot safer then it was then an what it is now, an I remembered tht though how street smart tht I was an my friends how I lost a really wonderful friend of mine tht was 15 an her head was found cut off of her body, so I had to think did I want to make my bby's come home with me, where they belonged & take a huge risk tht my bby's would end up like my friend Dawn? Hell no so tht day......... :( I had to make a choice 1 tht would jst. end my whole life, my reason's for living,but atleast I could still see them,be with them & they'd be safe& 1 day theyd come to their sences & come back to mommy & we'd go back to writing in our journals together every night like b4,get into our traveling new king size tk. & jst. go & we'd stop when ever they felt like they was where they wanted to be even if it was jst. ky to see family, or Florida to Disneyland, to even Calif. Behind the scenes this bitch had been threatening my bby's, tht she;d do this an tht her& her 2 over grown ass cow's who was all waay older then my bbys an yet they could not fight so they'd catch my kids in bed asleep an get ontop of them all 3 an beat them like slaves, then they was selling their ssn's to ppl@ tax time to ppl tht worked, then where their daddy died an left$$ to them, she took, all their clothes, shoes, ring's to every video game I bought them she'd take back an get for her big ass cows. I found out in May 23 2014 when my youngest daughter had found me tht they was being brain washed,threatened of death if they tryed to ever leave, to even tht her youngest daughter who is grown now,but back when her kid's was lil. an she was in mississippi, her family threw her out bc she was having sex an 3somes with her own lil. bby girls with men for$$ so when they moved here in Indiana Catherine Lashawn Haynes kept it up an when her youngest daughter Courtney showed up preg. @ 12 by 1 of the many diff. trick's her mother had she lied on some science teacher tht he had raped her daughter, now if u seen these things.... You would no better,bc there isnt anything tht is as ugly as her & her twin kids, but she told her daughter tht they couldnt find tht science teacher... Come on now no teacher can run away an not even know the lies was told. so she made her 12yr. old keep the bby, an then instead of being a grandma, she had him the bby think tht she is his mom an his real mom is his sis. jst so she could get a disability check on him too, she wasnt thinking about wht it was doing to her 12 yr. old. Any way's once my daughter had enough of beating's,lies an this bitch an her child molesting boyfriend as well as her they called my bby in there an tryed to get her high on weed an started to try to make her have a 3some with them an her a teen, she got up an ran out, when she went looking for me, tht bitch had a friend set it up to call her vehicle in stolen then supposedly Catherine an her cows seen Alysanna they sat on her an called the police an said tht they had her an was sitting on her until they got there, for 1 u have to have a key bc u know ur self these new vehicles has to go to the dealer ship to get a key made bc of the computer chips in it an without them u can't turn them on. Well here goes my bby all bc she was looking to come home to me which meant not only would this bitch loose tht monthly check as well as selling their ssn's @ tax time, steal their daddy's death money he had left for them, so she lied an though she's s=been in there 18,19,20& 21st b-day an still has more to go, my other daughter had ran away an found me an told me everything, an tht this winch an boyfriend had jst. tryed to rape her into a 3some, just as she's doing to her own grandson who thinks tht is his mother an she's still doing him an hejst. turned 13? maybe 12. But my daughter told me tht they really loved me an wanted to go home with me,but she had threatened them an scared them badly something would happen to me, them an their bby bro. tht lived with me. Now in Nov. this yr. I finally gotten all my bbys info & I wrote to her telling her tht I do Love her, I still worship my lil. bby girl an I miss her so very much & if she would plze. send me a visiter's app. so we meaning my self, her bby brother, an her pop's my husband of 19 yrs. she wrote back: OMG, mommy I jst knew an been praying tht you'd some day find me an write me, an I will finally have my mommy back, my mema which is my mom her mema an the rest of her family an tht she loves me soo very much an it wasn't her saying tht she hated me an tht she'd run away tht was wht she was mad to say.... I got a letter frm. her the 4th. one an it was on Christmas Eve from her saying tht our apps had went threw an tht she couldnt wait to see us again, well as u know it takes 20$ to take her so she can eat something other then prison food, an a pop an snack's so tht night I was crying bc ID have $$ to go see her for gas,nor the 20 & a friend had popped up an he asked me wht was I so up set an crying over on a very special night, I told him I jst got a letter frm. my bby stating I was approved to see her an I didnt have money since xmas. He left me 50$ for gas an to feed my bby an so on Christmas this yr 2014, I got to see my reason's for living, my very special an precious Alysianna, I hadn't seen in over 5yrs. she could not believe it when she walked in an seen me, though I'm in a wheel chair, on oxygen an etc. she was checked an came over to me holding an us crying bc we never thought tht this day would ever come. I need to find some 1 to help me get my bby out of there bc she has been set up, lied on, beat, raped an soo much more bc of tht bitch. Please I am terminally ill & do to the yrs. of hell without her I was on my death bed when my younger daughter had ran from her though she was 19, she was in a shelter for battered women an they helped her get to me, an if not for her telling me tht they do love me, an why they had to say they hated me, I was for 1st. time in yrs. as well as jst. beat wht the docs told my husb. tht he needed to get my family together as well as all the arrangements, an when she came home an told me, & I fount out Alysianna really loves me & I wrote her an she called me mommy an how much she loved me????....... I was up an I have been alive almost 8 mos. over wht they gave me... So you see I need my very special bby out of there and she is very innocent bc of their mental an physical damage thank's to someone who should not be allowed to walk the streets nor her over grown cows they need to be in there for frauding the govmnt. having my kids getting checks under her daughter's name an other in her mother's name an wht child molesting, child beaters tht they are their the oones tht needs fed. time for 6 life sentences an my daughter set free....
Carla Pearson
Friday, September 26
I am new to this whole jail& prison thing. I had gotten sick almost 11 yrs. ago & in order to get better& my bby girl's not see it due to the fact I never believed in letting my angel's ever see any thing bad,scary,or heart breaking so I knew I had to get them settled with a person an make sure they was o.k with where they was & not being hurt or any thing bad ever be in front of them while I was gone. I worked soo hard on getting better that in 4 month's I came back to Indpls. from Ky. the 1st. thing was to go straight over & get my bbys. & some hoe in those 4 month's tht so called friend had brain washed my bbys into hating me,lil did I know tht she was getting checks for them & selling their ssn's to ppl @ tax time. I almost died hearing my girl's,the very angel's tht I literally died for having them in the delivery room,but was able to be brung back though all I cared about was them saving my bby's. Well its been 10 of the longst yrs. of my life& more hell then u could ever imagine,Now I have found my youngest she is 19 & told me every thing & that my oldest Alysianna Martin is in womens prison because when she turned 18 she was tired of being bearen,slaved,& much much more& this so called woman had heard her ask for my mom's number because I'm going home and so will my sister & now Alysianna is in prison due to this well I cannot say what she is,but I know that I need to try & get a hold to my bby & tell her that Catherine lied to her when she said that she told my bby tht she came over to my house & I slammed the door in her face saying I never wanted any thing to do with either of the girls & to never bother me again, which was an is such a lie, well it's severley demented what she has done to my bbys lives. I have turned her& her 2 grown daughters in for stealing my kids ssn. getting checks in others names because they had too many coming to their houses from a few slightly retarded woman who has kids as well an they some how got her an her kids info. an is recieving checks for them an they dont live there with this bunch my youngest daughter Shauneisa Martin & I went to the disability office and turned all that info in on these 3. I dont know how to get ahold to my baby girl,nor has she had any money put on her books,nothing bought for her at all& she's been in for almost 3yrs. & for that lying winch Catherine Haynes setting my daughter up to look like she's doing things that she has no ideal how to do or would ever do all due to the fact because Catherine didnt want to loose that check on her so she then brung in this 1 boy trying to get with my youngest & get her pregnant to get a check on my grandbaby,but that didn't work bc she wouldn't let him an she was in a shelter for battered women when she found me do to what that winch has done to her an Alysianna. I need Help on how to also get in an see her,talk to her,give her thigs she needs and money as well as talking to the warden,& the Parole board to see about getting my bby out of there & back home with me her mom where she belong's. Please help me I am 39 now & I am terminally ill, & I want my bby's to have the life they should have had an put them on the right track. Can ANY ONE PLEASE HELP ME?
Monday, April 7
My name is Ruby Richardson, I am a member of a senior line dance group.The name of the group is Young at Heart Senior Line Dancers. The members must be 55years old and up. We would be happy to dance for the womenfund.org.
Scott Servoss
Friday, February 14
I am writing you today to discuss the prison system. I am a volunteer at the Indianapolis IREF facility as a mentor and also teach a class at the Indiana Women’s Prison The class is called "Spoken Word" and is a spoken word poetry class. I can't tell you enough how therapeutic this form of art is for the prisoners in the Rehabilitation process. We have made tremendous strides already. The students get to voice their emotions and thoughts and it ultimately becomes a healing experience.

I really can't put into words how talented some of these women are and how much some have changed throughout the process. Please Please get the word out to the program as we do have the need for more media publicity to create more and expand the programs

Scott Servoss
Abigail Coleman
Wednesday, December 11
Hello Deborah: Very many thanks for your interest! The program is run by ICAN. ICAN works with some women at Indiana Women's Prison to train service dogs. To learn more about their program, visit icandog.org.
Deborah Baker
Tuesday, December 10
I would like more information about the ADA dog training program. Specifically where you get the dogs, how long they stay at the facility and where do they go after training???
Sue Swayze
Monday, April 29
We have a grant to teach healthy relationships skills to both singles and couples, and my all-time favorite place to teach is IWP in the PLUS Unit. Whether as children or with their husband or partner - these women have been through so many unhealthy experiences, from violence to verbal and emotional abuse. They say that this is one of their favorite classes (PREP or Within My Reach), which I also teach in Marion County jails and various re-entry programs in Indy. How to de-escalate an argument, how to fight 'fair', how our expectations set us up for failure, how to express our needs and how to choose a partner wisely. Evan how to break-up carefully yet with finality. I've taught almost 1,000 women behind bars and in the community and the one thing we ALL have in common is the need for a secure, safe, stable, loving relationship. I'd love to tell you more about it as our grant is running out, and our community partners like Healthy Families, Julian Center, PACE, Jail 1 and CCA are all wishing we could do more in the future.
Anne Vanderlaan
Monday, April 29
I work at Rockville prison as a substance abuse counselor, I would like to know personally about your organization. I am inspired that other people are trying to make a difference in the lives of these women.

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