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Female Prisoners Often Abused Before and During Incarceration

Jason Reese

It’s no secret that our prisons are populated with individuals who have faced many difficulties during their lives. For female prisoners, the data is stark and staggering. The Correctional Association of New York recently reported that three-quarters of women in prisons have experienced “severe physical abuse by an intimate partner in adulthood.” An even higher percentage of female inmates were physically or sexually abused when they were children.

When combined with reports that nearly 20% of women in prisons are the victims of sexual assault and many more experience physical violence and sexual harassment, the vulnerability of this population starts to come into focus. As if physical and sexual abuse at the hands of prison guards or other inmates is not traumatic enough, many women are actually re-experiencing old trauma. The result can be severe psychological damage, leading to mental illness, violent behavior, and suicidal thoughts. In fact, 73% of women in prisons reported symptoms of serious mental illness in a survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. The proportion of inmates experiencing symptoms of mental illness was much higher for women than for men.

It isn’t easy for women in prisons to put a stop to their abuse. The law essentially requires them to exhaust administrative options before filing a lawsuit in federal court. That sounds simple enough and reasonable enough; however, in the prison setting, this often means reporting an assault to the people who are responsible for the abuse. Prison guards have full access to prisoners, can easily isolate them from others, and can easily make up reasons the prisoner appears to have been injured or abused.

Unfortunately, retaliation against those who report abuse is common. Women in prisons often see no way out of what is happening to them. Fear of retaliation and the low likelihood of a positive resolution prevent them from taking the administrative steps needed to prove all the available options were utilized. Problematically, these steps must be taken for women to have a legal option in the federal courts.

Women prisoners attempt suicide twice as often as male prisoners and five times as often as women outside of prison. Too many families have lost a loved one first to the prison system and then to suicide. The incarcerated women simply see no other way out of their situation.

It is incredibly important for inmates who are being abused to report all injuries and abuse. This takes a great deal of strength, but it is critical the process be documented. Certainly, it is advisable to consult an experienced attorney who can help ensure documentation of the ordeal. The prison abuse attorneys at Wagner Reese have been protecting the civil right of prisoners for decades. Not only can we help a prisoner who is being abused, we can support the families of those who have been lost to the system via abuse or suicide. Call us today to see what we can do for you: (888) 204-8440. The initial consultation is absolutely free, and we don’t get paid unless you do.

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