Please take a moment to read these sobering facts about women in the criminal justice system: (Women's Prison Association, 2009)
• Over 200,000 women are in prison and jail in the United States, and more than one million women are under criminal justice supervision.
• The number of women in prison has grown by over 800% in the past three decades.
• Two thirds of women in prison are there for non-violent offenses, many for drug- related crimes.
• Nearly two-thirds of women in prison are mothers.
• 2 million children have a parent in prison
• Women of color are disproportionately represented in prison.
• 60-67% of female prisoners are Black or Hispanic
• 24% of the U.S. population is Black or Hispanic
• 64% of women entering prison do not have a high school diploma
• Over 80% of incarcerated women have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault at some point in their lives.
These are some pretty serious and heavy numbers and women in prison are very often an over-looked part of the prison population. And a group of film makers have decided to try and make these women's voices heard through film.
Due to be released in the Spring of 2012, comes an intriguing film documentary about the lives of women inmates at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women which is a maximum-security women's prison located in Mitchellville, Iowa. The title of this documentary is "The Grey Area"-Feminism Behind Bars.
The film attempts to blur the lines between the typical notions of good vs. evil, victim vs. offender, and explore the ambiguous GREY space that is often invisible within the prison walls.
The premise of this documentary, The Grey Area, is an ambiguous thought process about life behind prison walls, coming from a woman's perspective. The film attempts to challenge the black-and-white ways of thinking about the institution of Prison and the people who are incarcerated within it.
The film documents college students from Grinnell College in Prison Education Program helping the women at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women to earn college degrees. The documentary shares the stories of these women, and how in many cases, one wrong doing can send the women to prison for life. It shares the stories of how many of these women had drug additions, were physically abused and shows how they cope with life in prison.
As one female prisoner states, "we are forgotten here in prison-by friends, family and by society." How profound!
The filmmakers are still raising money to complete this very important project that shows that just because a person is in prison, there is still room for change and transformation and hope.