Homophobia and Nepotism Behind Prison Walls


by Charisse Shumate, CCWF
I am sitting here and thinking back on all the things my eyes have seen and my ears have heard since the first day of my incarceration. Prison staff are quick to label you if you are an inmate-we call it putting a jacket on someone. Once you have this jacket, you never live it down and very few of these labels are good. Some women come into prison already gay. It was their lifestyle on the streets. Others just try it to try and fit in. There are women who, out of pure loneliness, have turned to another woman and found someone to share good times and the bad ones. After a while sex might have happened, but not always. So you start to eat together, share your canteen and maybe even be roommates, never being disrespectful to each other or to staff. But now you find out you have a label as a homosexual. You or your friend are moved to a different room, unit or yard.
Male or female staff come to work here married, single or divorced. They meet one of their peers and maybe start going to eat, drink or shop after work. They become involved. Maybe they get married or they tell a family member how to get a good job with CDC.
An inmate may get in some kind of verbal disagreement with a staff member, but the inmate is not always wrong. So she uses her right to appeal and wins. Now she is retaliated against by the wife, brother or sister of the staff she just won an appeal on. This is outright nepotism! That is not supposed to be going on any more than homosexuality is, but no one separates staff and sends them to work at another prison.
CCWF refuses to help mothers, daughters or sisters live in the same room or unit. What can we do to stop this unfair treatment?