by Connor Hayes
In this video essay, I mold the ideas of Debbie Kilroy’s Sisters Inside with my own viewpoints to create a short film. Sisters Inside sheds the light on how unfair, biased, and racist the female prison culture is in the United States. I was very interested in this topic after watching the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Shortly after starting my research, I found that the women ending up in prisons are going at an unparalleled level. The rate at which African Americans and Latina’s are being sent to prisons is completely different than the rates for white female prisoners. I needed to find what links these women in orange jumpsuits together, something that is concrete enough to make a generalization about female inmates. I took different perspectives, from correctional officers to inmates, and molded them together to create an objective scope with multiple angles. Violence, drug and sexual abuse, race: are all intertwined in this video essay that deepens the horizon on female prisoners. Kilroy’s book gives first hand testimonies to stories and events that happened in female correctional facilities. Most stories go unheard by, not even making a ripple in the sea of society. After watching this video you have heard these stories, these realities of female human beings behind bars.
There is a clear delineation of how the prison culture is set up and run. Most people would think that the prison guards run the entire facility, but that would be a wrong assumption. In this video essay you will learn how the prison culture is an intricate web of social interactions and reactions. The inmates run the prison, as they are constantly there while correctional officers come and go. Those who oppose this fortified culture that has stood and thrived for decades, often find themselves isolated and ostracized on the inside. “Hardest Prisons” offers a first hand view into the female prison system. In the film, it’s easy to translate the reading materials from Sisters Inside to Women Behind Bars into a tangible text that can be explained and resonated with music and pictures.
The goal and aim of this short documentary was that female inmates need a voice. They are unrepresented due to the comparatively small amount of women in the current US prison population. Sisters Inside offers this voice, but there needs to be a larger audience so that these prisoner’s stories and experiences don’t fall upon deaf ears. The US war on drugs, profiling minorities, and sexual abuse are all the key factors that contribute to the increasing number of female inmates. Without a change in legislation with more adept police procedures to stop sexual abuse and minority profiling, this rising number of female inmates will continue to grow at an unprecedented rate.