Americans live in a world that is manipulated by the media and media sponsors. Station managers and program directors in search of finding the next “goose that lays the golden eggs” are guilty of constantly bombarding the minds of teenagers and young adults with reality shows and entertainment news that often celebrate and glorify the bad behavior of the show’s young stars.
What’s often “lost in translation” to our youthful viewer are the young star’s deep and personal problems, problems that are born from out-of-control behavior that end up causing the young celebrity (and sometimes not so young) pain, embarrassment and sorrow; all by-products of living an out of control life that is a witches brew seasoned with promiscuity, irrational behavior, early pregnancy, broken relationships, disease and of course, alcohol and drug abuse.
It’s imperative that responsible adults and mentors take the time to sit down and talk to our nation’s youth about the consequences of making bad decisions based on imitating the lives of so-called “stars” that they see on television. Crime stats throughout the United States indicate that crimes committed by teenage girls and women below the age of 50 have sky-rocketed by over 800% in the past 30 years.
It’s because one out of 25 Americans are familiar with a young lady / woman between the age of 17 and 40 that has been previously arrested and has spent at least a week in jail that this article is written.
The LCIW Mission Statement:
“It is the mission of the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women to provide custody, control, care and treatment in a professional manner to adult female offenders through enforcement of the laws and management of programs designed to ensure the safety of the public, employees and offenders while reintegrating offenders into society.”
The compound is located approximately 12 miles south of Baton Rouge, right off of highway 74 in St. Gabriel, Louisiana. The facility is neatly nestled on top of a swampy patch of earth and is used exclusively to house women inmates. The facility, born from an upward spike in criminal convictions over the last three decades, is commonly known to hardened and repeat female offenders as LCIW. – Louisiana’s Correctional Institute for Women –
Originally built in 1977 to help house Angola State Prison’s exploding female inmate population, LCIW was built as a minimum, medium, maximum and death row facility.
The correctional facility is designed to house 1189 female offenders of all prison security levels. Within the institution’s cells are women convicted of crimes that range from burglary, the sale of narcotics, fraud and of course, homicide – both singular and plural.
To the average visitor, LCIW looks more like a small college campus than a state federal prison. Noticeably absent from LCIW are rows of barb wire fences and prison guard towers manned by well-trained sharp-shooters. Instead, what the visitor will find are grounds that are clean and well kept.
The lawns are meticulously landscaped and the prison’s court yard has water flowing fountains. The Louisiana Correctional Institution for Women even has a well-equipped playground. Prison warden Marianna Leger’s commitment to permitting inmate interaction with their children and their grandchildren is a favorite policy among inmates.
Amazingly, 75% of LCIW inmates are mothers and over 25% are serving a 15 year or longer prison sentence.
Although LCIW may have the outside appearance of a small college campus, the reality is the correctional facility, like all prisons must contend with a Pandora’s Box that is bursting at the seams with human weaknesses. It’s these same weaknesses that 9 out of 10 times served as the catalyst for the inmate’s incarceration.
As a result of an inmate’s built up tension that is associated with long periods of incarceration, prison guards and prison staff are always on high alert looking for signs of gang activity, violence, excessive anger, anti-social behavior, jealousy, and illegal drug use.
Within the prison walls at LCIW there are tales of intimidation, frustration, and gang violence. Although Warden Leger is truly committed to improving the lives of her inmates during and after incarceration through programs that are designed to educate, provide job training and create self-pride, the bottom line is LCIW is not a summer camp for “girls gone wild”. It is a correctional facility that houses some of the most dangerous women in Louisiana.
In the end what happens to the children whose mothers are incarcerated? If 75% of the inmates at LCIW are mothers and 25% of the incarcerated mothers are serving at least 15 years or more of hard time, then how many lives are negatively affected by this tragedy?
Family members that are forced to pick-up the slack of the incarcerated daughter / sister / mother in the manner of providing care for their children are in most cases over-burdened both personally and financially, often leaving the “adopted” child(ren) to feel as though they are an unwanted burden. In the case of fathers who step up to the plate in order to care for their child(ren) while their spouse or girlfriend is serving year after year, holiday after holiday behind iron bars, resentment begins to build and commitment to a two parent relationship quickly fades.
Finally, prisons like LCIW, through their numerous rehabilitative programs and professional staff of employees, are able to assist some inmates in paying back their debt to society and improving their lives as productive citizens. However, for every one inmate that succeeds in overcoming society’s stigma as a convicted criminal, there are ten more from LCIW that will fail, doomed to living the life of a repeat offender and ending up a permanent ward of the state.
So, if you know a woman that is an inmate at LCIW or any other correctional facility, please take the time to write them a letter and let them know that they are in your prayers and when they are released, there’s a whole lot of love waiting for them back home, and if possible, show up occasionally during scheduled visitations with a big smile and a joke, for even in prison, a shared smile and laugh with a loved one goes a long, long way.
National Stats on Women in Prison
At midyear 2007, approximately 65,600 women in federal and state custody reported being the mothers of 147,400 minor children.
• Seventy-seven percent of incarcerated mothers reported providing most of the daily care for their child(ren) before incarceration.
• Eleven percent of incarcerated mothers reported their children being placed in foster care, compared to only two percent of fathers.
The number of women in prison has grown by over 800% in the past three decades.
• The female prison population grew by 832% from 1977 to 2007. The male prison
population grew 416% during the same time period.
• Oklahoma has the highest female imprisonment rate at 134 per 100,000 women.
Massachusetts has the lowest rate of female imprisonment at 13 per 100,000 women.
Over 200,000 women are in prison and jail in the United States, and more than one million women are under criminal justice supervision.
• There were 115,779 women incarcerated in either state or federal prisons at midyear 2010.
• The average daily adult female jail population at midyear 2010 was 99,175.
• At year end 2007, there were 987,427 women on probation, representing 23% of the
total probation population.
• Women represented 12% of the parole population (98,923 women) in 2007.
Women of color are disproportionately represented in prison.
• White women made up the majority of women in custody at 45.5%, Black women
account for 32.6% of incarcerated women and Hispanic women represent 16% of this
population at midyear 2010.
• Ninety-three out of every 100,000 white women were incarcerated at midyear 2010.
During the same time period, 349 out every 100,000 black women and 147 out of every
100,000 Hispanic women were incarcerated.
Until next time Louisianans, Good Day, God Bless and Good Fishing.