STACEY PETRO on 2/17/2014 6:12:22 PM wrote
The past few weeks I have been overwhelmed, adjusting from the transfer from a minimum security camp to a higher security detention center. I have been researching Bureau of Prisons policy, which doesn’t support such a transfer, and contemplating the causes and effects of such a practice. The recent sentencing of H. Ty Warner, Beanie Baby mogul, to 2 years of probation for hiding $25 million from US tax authorities has also been on my mind. The attitude towards women from courts to prison is most definitely one of inferiority. That may sound like a leap, but in what I have observed in the past 19 months in custody of the Bureau of Prisons and a total of 4 years in the criminal justice system, that is the only conclusion I can make.
When Warner was sentenced on January 14th to a period of probation, Judge Cares Kocoras not only expressed admiration for Mr. Warner, but praised him for his charity work… This felt like a kick in the gut. I am a mother of two small boys and have meet many women who are caregivers to their children, nieces, nephews, etc. and are serving lengthy sentences that were handed out with no regard for the irreplaceable role they played in those children’s lives. Where is the value in that? This is a pattern, and not isolated instances where a women’s role as a caregiver is ignored, even though courts are allowed to consider that role when fashioning a sentence. Unfortunately when you have mostly older white men making the decisions, they tend to favor other older white men. I have written before about sociological reports of a possible explanation that wheeling and dealing is a character trait admired in men, but seen as criminal behavior in women. The question becomes how can this change so that women truly have a chance at fair sentencing?
Once a women is in the prison system, typically longer than their male counterparts, they must suffer the effects of preferential treatment to men. I have personally witnessed this in the Danbury facility. The only low security facility for women was being changed to a male facility, forcing hundreds of women to be transferred to facilities far from their families or transferred to higher security facilities close to their residence. I was one of 29 women transferred to a detention center, although I was from the camp which is supposedly still remaining a female facility. The BOP reason for my transfer was to participate in a work cadre. Facilities with no satellite camp (aka cheap labor) can house a population of minimum security inmates with the custody level that enables them to work outside the prison perimeter. FDC Philadelphia has over 1000 inmates, only approximately 120 are women and about a dozen of them can be a part of the work cadre. So basically all BOP policy for security and custody classification was thrown out the window in order to have workers. Men are deemed too much of a public safety risk to work outside the perimeter. Many of those men, however, are released from this facility, so what does that say to the BOPs confidence that they are not a public safety risk.
What I witnessed in Danbury with mission change to a men’s facility is what underscored the attitude of the BOP towards women. Both the FCI and FPC are older facilities, with many repairs in terms of plumbing, electrical, and structure needed in the 19 months I was housed in the camp. Mold, including black mold, was visible as well as cracking asbestos insulation over where we slept. The inmates had one dorm area that had insufficient heat in the winter and leaked with rain or melting of snow. Many inmates put in requests for repairs, but the work was not done. That was until it was decided that the Puppies Behind Bars programs would over to the camp. Once it was determined that dogs would be housed in that dorm, the work was priority and all facilities foreman were put to work on that project, ignoring areas where the women are housed.
In the FCI, despite Director Charles Samuels stating no repairs were needed for the mission change, nearly a complete rehabilitation of the building was occurring… new bathrooms, flooring, etc. The dorms were being equipped with new mattresses, bed frames, lockers and ice machines… items the women were in need of. To add insult to injury, the inmates forced to transfer from the FCI were forced to do the work to prepare the building for the men and such work included removal of asbestos tile.
The first step in changing these circumstances for women the justice system to be hold the courts and prisons accountable for being fair and just. Only public scrutiny can help… so please do your part to advocate for us! The Senators in the Northeast for a short time were involved in some of these issues, but their support faded after Election Day. Only the public can urge them to proceed with action to ensure this system is fair for all.
FEDERAL DETENTION CENTER
P.O. BOX 562
PHILADELPHIA, PA 19105