Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

Twenty-One: The Meaning for Me

Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

Twenty-One: The Meaning for Me

Article excerpt

It was a tall, fenced-in cage-Is this the main entrance? For Visitors? [Push a button and state your business.] "Umm... volunteer for the University of Wyoming. Writing, Education, Class?" The cage rattled slightly as I heard a buzz; the gate unlocked and I stepped through. I spent weeks mulling over how to begin this piece that I knew I wanted to write as our writing class continued and I've decided the best way to communicate is to include notes from the (once-typed) 37 pages I compiled. Over speaking with and hearing the stories of fourteen women housed at the Wyoming Women's Center, I came to the conclusion that too many people, myself included, do not really understand what prison is like, and we all should. Those in America that have not been convicted of a crime may feel as though the "criminals" deserve to be in prison and the prison environment is fitting for the punishment. I used to be one of those people.

I have always had a strange fascination with crime-mainly supported in my love of true crime shows on television. But, prior to being involved with this course, that's all I could say was the source of my interest and I know that television shows are made with a certain angle. I am a dual-major business student. Upon taking Business Law my second year, I decided the next step in my education was to pursue a law degree. I became involved with this University of Wyoming class and project simply by browsing the courses offered for the summer of 2016, and this course, taught as "Women, Crime & The Law," caught my eye, as I was in the middle of law school applications. When I couldn't instantly register, I emailed the professor to see how to get into the class. She responded and invited me to her office to speak with her. This was unusual; never before had a professor taken such measures before letting me into a class, which further increased my interest. It wasn't until we met that I learned that the course involved traveling to a prison and being a part of a writing course. I actually thought each of us would be writing a memoir, so I started writing one. I really wasn't sure what to expect and had no idea what the workload would be like or had any other expectations going into the class, other than (honestly) some fear of the unknown, hoping to enjoy the experience, and to learn from this unique opportunity.

Previously I thought, "the law is the law is the law." I thought punishments should be harsher pretty much all around. I thought that crime was what divided society. I thought that time in prison wasn't enough for most crimes. And I thought rehabilitation didn't work. But, I wanted to see prison life firsthand; I did my best to open my mind and set those notions aside. Orange is the New Black was my only idea of what prison was like, and while it may be similar to Piper Kerman's production, I can tell you, the women's prison in Wyoming is far from Orange is the New Black. My 60 hours in the Wyoming Women's Center led to the 37 pages of class notes I mentioned earlier. Please keep in mind that many of the points are from personal opinions or experiences that may not apply to all prisons, all inmates, all processes-these were the bits of discussion that intrigued me, surprised me, or led me to a question. I would like to share with you what I learned from the 60 hours of nonstop discussion between the inmates and the women from the university.

LEGAL

* Some of the accused may meet his/her public defender on the way to the courtroom for his/her hearing.

* An attorney can take a case pro-bono and only speak to the client twice: once for meet and greet, and once more a year later when telling the accused that they are going to trial. Said accused could have taken a plea for approximately 15 years rather than be sentenced to life.

* An accessory to a crime can be tried, convicted, and sentenced prior to the person charged for the crime itself; both can be charged the "same". In reality, the accessory receives life without parole and the primary perpetrator receives life with parole, released in 2008. …

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