By email@example.com (KALW News)
In the last 25 years, women have been the fastest growing prison population in the United States and in California. Between the ‘70s and the 2000s, the number of female inmates in state prisons serving a sentence of over a year has grown by 757%.
Between 1985 and 2007, the number of women in prison increased by nearly double the rate of men. At the height of California’s prison boom, in the late 1990s, Theresa Martinez was shipped to a brand new prison in Chowchilla.
The two prisons in Chowchilla were built to house the ballooning population of women, incarcerated mostly for drug-related crimes.
THERESA MARTINEZ: And as the population grew, they were bringing busloads and busloads of women and we were filling up the rooms. At first we started with four bunks. And then more bunks got put in there, that was six. And then eight. Which is past the fire laws. Which they don’t care about the fire laws, somehow they got past that too. And there’s eight in a room now. And basically you’re told when to eat. Each unit goes at a time to eat. You have to wait in line for canteen. You have to wait in line for medical. Don’t catch the flu and have to put in a co-pay, because you’ll have to wait two days anyway.
Martinez is one of 13 women featured in the new book, Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons.
The book’s editors Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman joined KALW’s Holly Kernan for this interview.
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