Tag Archive for Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time

Susan Madden Lankford to Host Encinitas Library Food Drive

downTown USA: A Personal Journey with The HomelessAs part of its Third Wednesday Series, the Friends of the Encinitas Library presents our own Susan Madden Lankford this Wednesday, September 15, at 6:30 p.m. Lankford will host the library’s annual food drive for the Encinitas Community Resource Center’s Food Program. The library staff will be collecting non-perishable food items at the event, so we encourage you to bring donations.

Additionally, we would like to thank KPBS for the kind words about Susan in its article that announced the food drive:

Lankford’s penetrating photographs, rich personal narrative, and candid interviews are supplemented by contributions from the street people themselves, creating a compelling portrait of a population at risk. Susan will be exhibiting photography from both of books — ‘downTown U.S.A.‘ [link is ours] and ‘Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time.’

Here is a taste of what you will be in for:

Please join us at the Encinitas Library, and bring some canned goods! The event is free and open to the public. The address is: 540 Cornish Dr. in Encinitas [Google Map].

Source: “Susan Madden Lankford, Author & Photojournalist, Hosts Food Drive,” KBPS, 09/15/10
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America’s Prison Plight

Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing TimeIt is no secret that the American prison system is rife with problems. It is the personal stories of women in our penal system that led our own Susan Madden Lankford to create Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time, in which she juxtaposes black-and-white images taken in jails with quotes and personal narratives from the incarcerated.

This window into the incarcerated life, its hardships, and its social ramifications, is especially important in the modern day, a day when our penal system is bursting at the seams. David C. Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project in Washington, D.C., attributes this to the “Three Strikes” laws and other mandatory minimum-sentencing laws. He asserts that the overly harsh sentencing is responsible for not only causing the prison population to skyrocket, but is also culpable for the fact that approximately one in 11 of the imprisoned are there for life.

There are many aspects to this breakdown. Craig Welkener of AOL News brings us some of the disturbing facts in his recent opinion piece on the subject. Take particular note of the last two items, which directly affect imprisoned females:

The problems with today’s prisons are well documented. Conditions are deplorable. Here are a few facts:

  • Federal prisons are being operated at 160 percent capacity. Mandatory minimum sentences are putting thousands of nonviolent offenders in prison, for disproportionately long terms.
  • Approximately two-thirds of prisoners released each year will be back behind bars in some form before three years have passed.
  • Mental health care is woefully inadequate.
  • Prison rape is a moral outrage rampant across America. More than 60,500 inmates reported sexual abuse in 2007 (the actual number of rapes is likely far higher), and nearly 1 out of every 8 juveniles in custody became a victim of sexual assault from 2008 to 2009, according to a Department of Justice study.
  • Most states still allow the shackling of women during labor and delivery, often causing permanent scars. This unnecessary and humiliating procedure is opposed by the American Medical Association, the Rebecca Project for Human Rights and virtually anyone else who knows about it.

In short, the system is not working.

Those last two items in particular seem like something from the Middle Ages, yet they are faced daily in modern America. All of the factors listed by Welkener contribute to the additional trouble that former inmates have in reintegrating themselves back into society.

Take a look inside these walls, a bracing look at fellow humans fighting circumstances that dehumanize: Take a look at Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time. Unfiltered and presented in the words of the jailers and the imprisoned, it will take you into the chiaroscuro world of the female inmate, a world never seen before in quite this way.

Source: “Opinion: Why Obama Should Take on Prison Reform,” AOL News, 08/17/10
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time.” Used with permission.

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Across the Pond: Incarcerated Women in the U.K.

Maggots in my Sweet PotatoesThe situation of women in prison is well known to us at HUMANE EXPOSURES.

Our book, Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time, is the first in a photojournalistic series addressing the social issues of child abuse and neglect, homelessness, incarceration, and the special needs of women behind bars. It would seem that the sort of personal narratives shared in that work are shared by the women incarcerated across the Atlantic in the U.K.

Thea C. Garland, a reporter for Global Post, sheds light on the changing view of women’s incarceration that arrived with the new administration last May. The new Secretary of Justice, Kenneth Clarke, has stated that he believes there is no link between falling crime rates and rising levels of imprisonment. Evidently, he has begun a campaign against short prison sentences. In addition, Prime Minister David Cameron seems to share his views, having called short jail terms “meaningless.”

Garland brings us some startling statistics about the global extent of these issues:

Not since the mid-19th century have there been so many women in British jails. Britain’s female prison population has increased 60 percent since 1997, compared to a 28 percent increase for men.

‘Practically every country in the world, rich and poor, is seeing their social fabric disintegrate as more and more women are being charged and held in custody, often long distances from families,’ the World Health Organization noted in a report last year.

The numbers that Garland reports for the U.S. are also unsettling:

While women make up only 7 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons in the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 2000 and 2008, the female prison population in America rose by 23 percent. More than half of women in federal prisons said they were mothers.

“Down under,” another former British colony is not exempt from the trend:

In Australia, the imprisonment rate for women rose by 209 percent between 1984 and 2003, but only 75 percent for men, according to the report ‘New Gender Rights for Women Prisoners and Offenders.’

In Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time, the photographs of Susan Madden Lankford are accompanied by the words and stories of women and workers in a California women’s jail. These women’s crimes are often intertwined with prior abuse, mental health problems, and addiction issues. Garland holds a British mirror up to these narratives and finds the reflection to be quite similar:

A report by a British penal reform charity, The Prison Reform Trust, revealed that a staggering 70 percent of British female prisoners had two or more mental health problems; more than a third said they had attempted suicide at some point. More than half of women in British prisons had suffered from domestic violence and one in three had been sexually abused, according to the trust.

The Howard League for Penal Reform states that women account for roughly 50% of all incidents where harm was self-inflicted, but make up only 5 % of the total prison population. With a 50% rise in incidents of this nature between 2003 and 2007, the numbers look grim.

Follow the  link below to read  the rest of  Garland’s article — it is thoughtful and dense with information. When you’re done, stop back and let us know your thoughts.

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Source: “UK: When jail doesn’t work,”  The Global Post, 08/05/10
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time.” Used with permission.

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