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Documentary Exposes Biological Male Takeover of Women’s Prisons

via NBC News
This article was originally published at StateOfUnion.org. Publications approved for syndication have permission to republish this article, such as Microsoft News, Yahoo News, Newsbreak, UltimateNewswire and others. To learn more about syndication opportunities, visit About Us.

The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) is launching a documentary series called “Cruel & Unusual Punishment: The Male Takeover of Women’s Prisons,” shedding light on the impact of housing transgender women with female prisoners.

The series will feature interviews with insiders, prison guards, and inmates, highlighting the discriminatory nature of these policies.

The project came from a “desire to take a stance in this fight and be a voice for current and former female inmates who, sadly, don’t have a voice,” IWF director of storytelling Kelsey Bolar said.

“IWF has taken a stand in defense of women and girls and female spaces. Our investment in the area of women’s prisons is really a natural continuation of our work to protect girls and women and women’s spaces.”

“It’s unfortunate that up until now, no other women’s groups have been willing to be a voice for female inmates, and in some cases, they have actively worked against them by lobbying to put men in women’s prisons in the name of tolerance and inclusion,” Bolar said.

She added, “Once you hear these stories, I think it becomes pretty clear that there’s nothing tolerant or inclusive about these policies. In fact, they are actively discriminating against women.”

The project aims to give a voice to female inmates who feel abandoned and oppressed by the lack of support from women’s groups and the media.

“It was really a big blow to my mental health, my stability. I wasn’t on the same yard or in the same cell as this individual, but just knowing how little concern and how much disdain that the state had for the whole female population was debilitating. People on the outside thought that we were crazy, that we were lying,” Woman II Woman founder Amie Ichikawa said.

“That feeling doesn’t really leave you, knowing that you are in an institution that you cannot leave from and you have that little control over even what’s in your head is very oppressive,” she said.

The first episode will share the story of a former prisoner who was housed with a transgender inmate, revealing the challenges and lack of control faced by women in such situations.

The series intends to raise awareness about the harsh realities faced by female inmates and spark conversations about the need for immediate relief from these policies.

“I’ll tell you from a policy perspective, I thought I knew this, but you don’t realize these women are climbing up to their top bunk every night with a male sitting below them in their nightgown. It’s little details like that you don’t even think about until you really do give these women a platform and opportunity to share their story,” Bolar said.

“It’s been a really rough couple of years hitting wall after wall, even among my own peers, many of whom are running organizations in the state of California that are in the social justice arena who did at one point advocate for women. The population inside [prisons] feels very abandoned,” Ichikawa said.

Bolar added, “Not only did all these women’s groups or groups that typically advocate in favor of improving the lives of inmates turn their backs on Aime and her attempt to shed light on this issue, but the media coverage has been completely biased.”

“If you look around at media coverage, it’s only from the perspectives of the very few transgender identified inmates. Who’s going to ask the female inmates how they feel about these policies and how they’ve been impacted by being forced to share extremely close quarters with biological men?” she said.

“92% of incarcerated women in California have been battered or beaten or are subject to some form of sexual abuse. They’re now forcibly housed with intact male inmates who 33.8% are registered sex offenders. So, to place women in a situation that’s very similar to their initial trauma, many of which led them to their incarceration, is cruel and unusual. And it has caused a lot of complex PTSD symptoms that start up developing in the entire population,” she said.

Ichikawa added, “Women’s self-worth is depleting on a daily basis just knowing that this is what their life looks like now. It’s something every day that’s the harsh reminder that they simply don’t matter and that nobody cares. And no matter how loud they scream or who they reach out to, there is no relief. So that is definitely what we’re aiming to accomplish with this. They need immediate relief.”

“We kind of feel that we’re invested in this issue, and as many stories as it takes for people to listen, we will be telling them. We’ve committed to showing a diversity of voices so people can understand the full range of implications,” Bolar said.

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