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Articles by Victoria Law

The Other Family Separation: Prisoners Fight to Keep Their Children

by Victoria Law

Ayana Aubourg was seven years old when her father was sentenced to 10 years in prison. For the next decade he parented through letters, weekly phone calls and once-a-year visits. He missed most of her childhood – picking her up from school, helping her with her ...

Behind Bars, Co-Pays Are a Barrier to Basic Health Care

by Victoria Law, Truthout

When Taylor Lytle began fainting every morning when she stood up, she had to make a decision: Should she seek medical care or should she save her hard-earned wages to buy soap, shampoo, deodorant and feminine hygiene products?

People across the United States struggle with similar ...

Imagine Pleading Guilty Because You Can’t Afford to Call Your Lawyer

by Victoria Law, Truthout

Imagine paying $20.12 for a 15-minute phone call. That’s how much a call from the Jennings Adult Correctional Facility in Missouri costs.

In 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set rate caps on interstate calls from jails, prisons and detention facilities. Now, interstate debit or prepaid calls can cost no more than 21 cents per minute (or $3.15 for a 15-minute phone call). Two years later, in 2015, it did the same for intrastate (or in-state) calls, which make up 92 percent of all calls from incarcerated people. Prison phone providers filed lawsuits challenging these restrictions and, in June 2017, a federal court ruled in the phone companies’ favor. The ruling means that intrastate calls are not subject to FCC regulation and rates fluctuate wildly depending on each facility’s contract with the phone provider.

Jennings isn’t the only local jail with outrageous phone prices. The Arkansas County Jail charges $24.82 for a 15-minute call; in contrast, the same call from the state’s prisons costs $4.80. In Michigan, a call from the Benzie County Sheriff’s jail costs $22.56, but $2.40 from the state prison.

Even when phone costs aren’t as exorbitant, they still add up quickly. ...

Imagine Pleading Guilty Because You Can’t Afford to Call Your Lawyer

By Victoria Law, Truthout

Imagine paying $20.12 for a 15-minute phone call. That’s how much a call from the Jennings Adult Correctional Facility in Missouri costs.

In 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set price caps on interstate calls from jails, prisons and detention facilities. Now, interstate calls can ...

Double Punishment: After Prison, Moms Face Legal Battles to Reunite With Kids

by Victoria LawTruthout | Report

This story is the first in a new Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series will dive deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States' incarceration of more than ...

Trans People in Prison Fight Barriers to Changing Their Legal Names and Gender Markers

by Victoria Law, Truthout

During her 30 years in California's prison system, Cookie Bivens has seen numerous trans women attempt to change their name and gender marker while incarcerated. Not a single woman ever succeeded.

In California, people seeking to legally change their name or gender marker must file an application with the county court and pay a filing fee of nearly $500. (A person earning less than $2,127 per month can file for a fee waiver.) Once the paperwork is filed, the court sets a hearing date within six to 12 weeks. If the court receives no objections to the proposed name and gender marker change, the petition is granted.

Incarcerated trans people face an extra hurdle: obtaining approval from the prison's superintendent and other administrators. Without that approval, they cannot begin the court process. Watching other trans women have their requests denied again and again, Bivens decided to not even try, and to focus instead on getting parole.

Bivens has been out of prison for six months and is only now beginning the process of legally changing her name and gender marker. At the same time, she wants to be sure that other trans people have the opportunity ...

"The System Abuses Us by Locking Us Up Forever": Aging Survivors Behind Bars

By Victoria Law, Truthout

On October 6, 2016, 15-year-old Bresha Meadows will appear in an Ohio family court for the death of her abusive father. Meadows had spent a lifetime watching her father hit, kick, shove and control her mother. If her mother tried to leave, her father often threatened ...

Aging, Sick and Incarcerated: The Need for Compassionate Release

By Victoria Law, Truthout.org

Mary Ziman already had debilitating fibromyalgia and, unable to work, was on permanent disability. Then she was arrested and sentenced to 27 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine, charges she says stemmed from fabrications by a woman with mental illness ...

Formerly Incarcerated Moms Fight for Reforms to Save Families

By Victoria Law, Yes! Magazine

Diana waited at the bus stop for her children to arrive from school one afternoon 20 years ago. She had planned a party to celebrate her daughter’s sixth birthday.

The party, however, never happened. Diana’s four kids never came home.

After calling the school, Diana, ...

Reproductive Health Care in Women’s Prisons “Painful” and “Traumatic”

By Victoria Law, Truthout

It was Kim Dadou’s second day at New York’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. As part of the prison’s intake process, she was brought to the prison’s medical unit for a gynecological exam and pap smear.

“We were brought down three or five at a time,” she ...