In Pictures: Formerly incarcerated women

Meet some of the women who are struggling to reintegrate into their communities after being freed from prison in the US.

by

    The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with more than 2.3 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails. Included among the total number of prisoners are more than 200,000 women, and more than one million who are under the supervision of the criminal justice system, on probation or parole.

    The majority of female offenders are poor, disproportionately African American or Hispanic, under-educated, unemployed and unskilled. After being freed from prison, reintegrating into the community is often a difficult process for women.

    Medical treatment for both mental and physical illness isn't easily affordable, and finding work can be difficult. Addiction, poverty, unemployment, physical and mental illness, sexual abuse, and homelessness serve as challenges for formerly incarcerated women and in many case lead them back to a path of crime.

    This is a look at women recently released from the US prison system as they struggle to reintegrate into their communities.

    Sade: "Do people know? Can other people see? It's a fear. I now have two stigmas: I am a minority and a felon. It took almost two full weeks walking around the city ... when people would look at me: do they [know]? I am told it will eventually go away ... it's weird." [Gabriela Bulisova]

     

    Zandononi: "I am a single mom, I have a substance abuse history, I am convicted felon and on top of that, I am a Muslim. When I go out in the society people have already prejudged me and they don't even know me, all they do is look at my face. I think it is so, so important that somebody knows we are real people, we are human, we have real feelings ... because what you read about us in the paper it's true, but we change just like anybody else!" [Gabriela Bulisova]

     

    Towanda: "My mother was using drugs, she tried to kill me when she was pregnant with me. My mother used to beat me, she tried to drown me, she burned me with iron, she said she hated me, she wished she had never had me." [Gabriela Bulisova]

     

    Sheila: "Being locked up is sad, you are away from the world, you don't know what's going on, you don't know what your kid is doing... you don't know what's going to happen, you are just like living day-by-day. I really don't want to experience that no more in my life." [Gabriela Bulisova]

     

    Violet: "The whole prison process, in a nutshell, has been an experience I never want to experience again. I think that unless you find out who you are, you are doomed to keep repeating stuff." [Gabriela Bulisova]

     

    Juanita: "Officially I've been clean for seven years. I feel great about myself today, I like the way I look, and I like the way I feel. I look forward to getting up every day doing what I need to do to better myself as far as getting back in the society." [Gabriela Bulisova]

     

    Lisa: "I got into the street life and I started selling drugs. From selling drugs I started using drugs, and then I became my best customer. And then I committed my offense, which was aggravated assault, and I went to prison. I did 14 years, I felt like my life was over - I did not have life but it was life to me." [Gabriela Bulisova]

     

    Maria: "Ninety-five days ago, I was sitting in the federal prison ... you never forget that. I had lost faith in the judicial system, I have lost faith in the US government, I have lost faith in people in general, with the exception of my parents and very few friends. I have been disappointed in awful, awful ways. I lost respect for myself, for other people and all I needed was to be treated like a human again ... you need somebody to tell you: you are going to be fine, you need somebody to believe in you, because starting over is absolutely terrifying." [Gabriela Bulisova]

     

    Ollin: "I was locked up [from age] 25 to 49, a lot of that was arrested. From 25 to 49, emotionally, I was arrested. Eleven years of that confinement, I was literally in handcuffs and chains. Now I am trying to catch up with the society. I spent 23 years in prison and I was the first African-American woman ever pardoned by the governor of Virginia." [Gabriela Bulisova]

     

    For more information visit gabrielabulisova.photoshelter.com.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.