Gender discrimination and the invisibility of women has been an issue in this world since before I was born. In my lifetime, I have seen attempts of changing this, steps toward gender equality. In my current situation, the invisibility of women is still an issue.
I am currently doing a six-year sentence in the women’s maximum/medium security facility. The facility is housing women with thirty-day sentences to life sentences. This building was not built to house inmates with long-term sentences. It was going to be a transition facility, which means there was not going to be anyone staying here for more than one year.
For whatever reason, something different happened. They took the women from a condemned prison (thank you) to this facility. Although the other prison was infested with roaches and mice, there was one thing to look forward to: “rec” (recreation) time. That building had a gym with weights and other workout equipment and a very large yard, that included an area with a basketball court and a large grassy space. We gave up a dirty old building for a newer one with no gym, and a yard that consists only of a basketball court. And that yard is all cement.
The yards at the men’s facilities (also medium and maximum) are much bigger than ours, with grass areas, weight areas, and a basketball court, as well as track and soccer fields. I do not know the exact measurements of the yard, but I don’t think the size of our yard is even a fraction of the size of theirs. They have the space to play a number of sports/activities. We can walk, play basketball with a ball that is basically flat, or volleyball until the ball goes over the fence and can’t be retrieved. What makes it okay for the men to have that yard but not the women? One may answer this question saying that there are more men than women incarcerated in Rhode Island, but I still don’t see that as a reason to deprive us women from having a better yard.
This may not matter to people who are not incarcerated, but it surely does matter to those of us who are. Rec time is very important; it’s a time to blow off steam, and it’s a way to stay healthy by exercising. It is also important for mental health. I know this issue may not ever matter or mean anything to people who do not have to be locked up in a facility on a daily basis and have only two hours a day to breathe fresh air.
I see signs that the overall problem of gender discrimination and the invisibility of women in the changing in the world. I think it only right that it change within this institution as well.
This post is published as part of the Prison Op/Ed Project, an occasional series authored by CCRI sociology students who are incarcerated at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute.