Silenced by the Pain of a Tumultuous Life


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Ms. Blog will be publishing a series of posts detailing the impact of domestic violence, including personal essays and more, throughout the month. In 2011, I was released from prison after serving more than two decades―I am finally free! However, freedom isn’t free. Every day, in small ways, I am […]

Pregnant Behind Bars: How Expectant Mothers’ Lives are Under Threat


Imagine being pregnant and hungry. Always hungry. Now imagine being hungry and locked in a room, unable to access food, for eight to 12 hours. Imagine opening a carton of milk and being hit in the face with a rancid smell that makes your stomach turn. Now imagine that that is the only carton of […]

Domestic Violence Survivor Jailed for Failing to “Protect her Children” from Abuser

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Domestic abuse survivor Tondalo Hall has spent the last decade behind bars in a McLoud, Oklahoma prison for “failing to protect” her children from a violent partner. Robert Braxton, Jr. was arrested in 2004 for breaking the ribs and femur of the couple’s daughter, who was 3 months old at the time. He was sentenced to 10 […]

What You Won’t See on Orange Is the New Black

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When I heard that Piper Kerman wrote the book Orange is the New Black about her experience at the Danbury, Connecticut federal prison camp, I was excited. I served part of my 15-year sentence with her and I found the book an accurate snapshot of Danbury FPC. (Full disclosure: I am “Esposito” in Piper’s book.) […]

When an Unwanted Pregnancy Lands You Behind Bars


Kenlissia Jones did what many women before her have done. Facing a pregnancy she could not or did not want to continue, Jones, a 23-year-old black woman from Georgia, went online in search of a solution. There, she purchased Cytotec, a prescription abortion-inducing pill, from a pharmaceutical company in Canada. She delivered a five and […]

Black Women’s Histories: A Conversation with Talitha L. LeFlouria


Black Women’s Histories, a conversation series profiling different feminist scholars engaging black women’s histories and narratives during Black and Women’s History Months (February and March, respectively), concludes with Talitha L. LeFlouria, author of the forthcoming Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South, due out next month. LeFlouria is assistant professor […]

Thirteen Years After 9/11: How Expensive is Guantánamo Justice?

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Imagine how the billions being spent by the U.S. on the never-ending imprisonment and proceedings against alleged 9/11 terrorists could be used to support health care and other social services in the U.S.—a first-hand report on what’s happening in Cuba. After spending a week at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base (GTMO, or Gitmo) serving as an […]

How Prison Killed Sex Worker Marcia Powell


In 2009, filmmaker PJ Starr received an email from a friend bringing news of the horrific and unnecessary death of Marcia Powell. Powell had been serving a 27-month sentence for solicitation of prostitution. While in Perryville Prison outside of Phoenix, corrections officers left her out in a metal cage for four hours in searing heat. As a […]

Back to the Big House


As avid fans know, the second season of Netflix’s hit show, Orange is the New Black, has been released. The series is a fictionalized version of the real-life story of Piper Kerman, an upper-middle-class white woman who was sentenced to over a year in prison for committing a drug-smuggling-related crime 10 years earlier. Piper Chapman […]

Probation for Raping a 3-Year-Old?


A mind-boggling report in a Delaware newspaper recently revealed that Robert H. Richards IV, heir to the DuPont chemical fortune, pleaded guilty in 2009 to raping his then-3-year-old daughter, but got off without a lick of jail time. Instead, Judge Jan Jurden sentenced him to eight years probation. Richards’ crime—fourth-degree rape—is a felony that carries a […]