Women in Prison

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and it got me to thinking about disenfranchised women.

In my early years studying psychology at the University of Queensland I had to do a community placement. I had to do something useful so I chose to teach guitar at the women’s prison in Brisbane.

Officially the jail was called ‘Brisbane Jail’ but everybody knew it as ‘Boggo Road‘. The jail was located on Annerley road in the inner Southern suburb of Dutton Park and had been around since 1883. It was Queensland’s main jail and had notoriously horrific conditions, especially the men’s prison. It has since closed.

Can you think of a better name for a prison – Boggo Road!

Bogged down in a quagmire of despair.

During my visits the lessons got a bit sidelined as the women were bursting to talk about the outside – what had I been up to in the previous week, my social life, etc., I really enjoyed their company and almost forgot where I was half the time (though the search on entry and exit would remind me quick enough).

A few things struck me on my prison visits.

  • The women I visited were so young – all in their teens or early twenties.
  • They were mainly in prison for drug-related offences, ranging from possession and dealing to armed robberies, and it seemed to me that they were often strongly influenced by the drug addicted males in their lives.
  • A lot of the women had children; I just couldn’t imagine what a nightmare the separation must have been for them. Some women, who came to prison pregnant, had their babies in prison and were allowed to look after the babies in prison.
  • The women were not allowed steel strings on their guitars (only nylon) – for obvious reasons.
  • One woman was in prison for life, for murder, and she was the queen bee (respect, fear, admiration – something was in their young eyes, and it made me feel queasy – talk about role models!).

Anyway, I am just going down memory lane. I wonder how those women are doing these days.