Women in CIW
Morale on the yard amongst lifers and long-termers affected by the termination of their Family Living Unit (FLU) visits privlege is definitely down.
Serving a life sentence takes years of mental and emotional adjustments. It is not easy to leave your children, family and loved ones behind and try to begin a life in a completely unfamiliar environment of control, degradation, dehumanization. We are stripped of our pride, self-esteem and self-worth.
Not only do we go through traumatic changes, so do our children, loved ones and famlies. Our only source of pulling together and holding on to family unity and strength are our FLUs. They are our incentive to do the best we can while incarcerated – to earn the privilege of spending 72 hours with our families and loved ones.
It enrages us that this privilege has been taken away based on the prejudiced, pre-judged misconception that those visits are primarily conjugal visits – inferring sex visits. We have been discriminated against and suffered for years being compared to men, when in fact we are different, our crimes were committed for and under different circumstances. We are supposed to be the role models and nurturers, so the system sets an example of us.
Now again, we are being compared to men – we resent the fact that the truth is not being told – thus not heard. Only a few (about 5%) of the FLU visits here at CIW are husband-and-wife-only visits (a pregnancy has never resulted from these visits). They are not merely sex visits, but a time to be together to continue working on love, respect and support through quality time spent together in a family setting.
We, as women, mothers, children, grandmothers, need to spend time with our children and families. How do we tell them that they are not important to our lawyers, that they do not care that we may NEVER hold, hug, kiss or share special moments ever again? How do we begin to work on our problems in a noisy visiting room – then put them on hold until the next scheduled visiting day? Tell them, I can’t touch or hold you; it is against the rules? Where is the continuity, the peace, the quiet time, the time to disagree, to teach, to nurture, to learn, to share, to pray, to comfort – to love? These feelings and emotions cannot be done in a public place, where you cannot give in to your emotions or feelings.
Our FLU visits are not only for solving problems and growing emotionally. They are also used for rebonding and holding on to the family closeness and unity. We cook, clean, watch TV, listen to the radio, pamper each other, play, laugh, etc.
The women of CIW do a lot for the community (Voices from Within, SOS, Yes I Can, Project Interchange, Victim Services, fund drives, Christmas projects). With the loss of our FLUs, it has taken the heart out and the women no longer feel a part of the community.
Without these FLU visits, many are feeling hopeless, that our life sentences have been changed to death sentences. We are devastated.