Commentary: Incarcerated California Women Are Asked How They Survived Prison

Creator: Joel Carillet | Credit: Getty Images

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By Eileen Huber, CCWF

How I survived is a loaded question. I was arrested at nineteen, doing hard drugs and alcohol from age 10. I was sentenced to life without parole and told upon my arrival at CCWF that the only way I would leave was in a body bag. So, I acted at the time what I thought was accordingly. I was beyond angry, scared, and as far out of my element as I could get. It didn’t help to be a skinny white girl, an instant mark in here. That said, I ended up better than most back then. I had a lot of lifers take me under their wing, showing me the way. I still messed up, but without the support I would have messed up far more and truly have been stuck here forever. I’m so grateful for those who helped, including Carleta, the mother figure I longed for for 32 years.  I don’t have a direct or easy answer to how I survived. Like anyone I have good days and bad, the bad are really bad and a lot of times I feel I can’t go on. But, the sun comes up and I plant two feet on the floor and do it all over again.

Being a woman in here has never been harder than it is now, with women turning into men, and he men men, there’s nothing left for the rest of us.

Being a woman in prison is hard to describe. I was abandoned by my mother at 10, I didn’t have a feminine role model in my life. My sex life began at age 10 with an older man. My idea of being a woman took a back seat to being a sex (object). I did my best to learn to keep house and cook, but I was a child. Coming to prison there was no real outlet to be a woman. We dress in pants, there’s minimal access to make up or anything that smells nice. Today we have more access. There’s a misconception that if you pay attention to your physical, feminine side, you’re hunting for a sexual partner. On a psychological side, we must suppress much of our femininity. We can’t nurture without being sucked into a codependent situation.

None of my pregnancies resulted in children. I never had a chance to be a mother. As a daughter, we’re expected to care for elderly parents. My parents died with me far away.

I can’t earn a career, have a family, and as an LWOP, I can’t even reinvent myself to leave a legacy. Who would I even leave it to? Now, as a woman in menopause, there are few resources to help me usher in my golden years. We don’t have hormone therapy to ease the menopause symptoms.

As I look back on my life and try to address and heal from the traumas of my past, there is the complication now of having to live with biological males.

I hear the deep voices, see the masculine features, see their violent acts on women here and I relive sexual trauma at the hands of men from the age of 10 until my arrest at 19.

I’m not really a woman, I am a prisoner.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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