Tenacious: Art & Writings by Women in Prison

#28 Mother’s Day 2013

As the title says, this zine is written entirely by women in prison. It is also written for women in prison; the proceeds from selling copies to the general public make it possible for incarcerated women to receive free copies.

We have other editions of Tenacious, but I read our copy for Mother’s Day 2013. The stories and poems vary on their exact topic, but they all focus on a sort of theme of motherhood and women’s health in the prison system. One woman tells the story of her pregnancy and birth in prison – how she was driven to a hospital in chains, gave birth, and only had a few hours to hold her son before being given off to whomever was going to care for him outside (she never said if it was her husband or a foster family or what). After that brief moment with her newborn, she was “black-boxed,” had chains all around her body and was immediately placed in the general population of the prison.

They also write about other problems within the prison system. The Prison Rape Elimination Act, which was created to protect the women from sexual misconduct from other inmates as well as prison staff, has been mutated. Women cannot even give each other a high five without being reprimanded. As for protection from staff, one prison has created a new rule in an effort to protect its staff and its own image. Any inmate found making a “false” claim against an officer is immediately sent to “administrative segregation,” and of course, anything that makes the prison or its employees look bad is officially called a false report. The “new and improved” healthcare system for prisoners also gets a review from an inmate who had to visit the nurse – and pay $5 for each visit – four times just to get a prescription refilled. Her friend went nearly three weeks on a broken foot because no medical professional was willing to take the time to take her seriously and treat the foot.

Overall, this is an amazing zine. It really opens your eyes to the daily struggles of a woman in prison and how messed up  the system is that is supposed to work so well and protect those who need it.

-Tori McManus