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Articles by Victoria Law

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 ...

Pregnant Behind Bars

Pregnant Behind Bars

The shameful lack of prenatal care in U.S. prisons and jails 

by Victoria Law

Reprinted with permission from In These Times magazine

At 5 a.m. on June 12, 2012, lying on a mat in a locked jail cell, without a doctor, Nicole Guerrero gave birth.

Guerrero was eight-and-a half months pregnant when she arrived 10 days earlier at Texas’ Wichita County Jail. The medical malpractice lawsuit Guerrero has filed—against the county, the jail’s healthcare contractor, Correctional Healthcare Management, and one of the jail’s nurses, LaDonna Anderson—claims she began experiencing lower back pain, cramps, heavy vaginal discharge and bleeding on June 11. The nurse on duty told her there was no cause for concern until she had bled through two sanitary napkins. Several painful hours later, Guerrero pushed the medical emergency button in her cell.

At 3:30 a.m., more than four hours later, Guerrero was finally taken to the nurse’s station. Guerrero says she showed Anderson her used sanitary pads filled with blood and fluids, but was not examined. Instead, she was taken to a one-person holding cell with no toilet, sink or emergency call button, known as the “cage.” At 5 a.m., her water broke. ...

A Mother Who Just Wanted to Know When Her Son Would Eat

by Victoria Law, Waging Nonviolence 

The temperature in Corona, Calif., can soar above 100 degrees in the summer, sometimes climbing as high as 110. For Dolores Canales and others locked into their cells 22 hours a day in the Administrative Segregation Unit at the California Institution for Women, the extreme heat was aggravated by the extreme lack of privacy.

“The cells get extremely hot in the summer, so you have to take your clothes off [to stay cool],” she recounted.

But the unit was circular, and the guard stationed in the center was able to see into any cell with the turn of his head. “You can’t cover the window on the door, so you’re always exposed to the guards, who are mostly men.”

Canales spent nine months in segregation at the California Institute for Women in 1999. “There, I had a window. The guards would take me out to the yard every day. I’d get to go out to the yard with other people,” she told me in 2013, while I was working on an article for The Nation.

Still, being in isolation took its toll. “There’s an anxiety that overcomes you in the middle of the night because you’re ...

“Ban the Box” Campaigns Seek to End Discrimination Against Formerly Incarcerated College Applicants

“Ban the Box” Campaigns Seek to End Discrimination Against Formerly Incarcerated College Applicants

by Victoria Law

"Selene” had been out of prison for one month when she applied to Dutchess Community College and Ulster Community College, both part of the State University of New York system. SUNY requires applicants to ...

Public Prisons, Private Profits

By Victoria Law, Truthout

When her daughter was first incarcerated in Arizona's Perryville State Prison, "Rae" sent her money orders bought at the local cash-checking place or from Walmart. But those took too long to clear, leaving her daughter without needed supplies, so she began driving to the post office ...

Women in Solitary Confinement: “The Isolation Degenerates Us into Madness“

Women in Solitary Confinement: “The Isolation Degenerates Us into Madness“

by Victoria Law

A mass prisoner hunger strike rocked California’s prison system last year, drawing international attention to the extensive use of solitary confinement in the United States. Increasingly, solitary is finding its way into the mainstream media and onto ...

On the Way to Solitary, Women in Massachusetts Jail Get Strip Searched and Videotaped

This article was originally published by Solitary Watch ( on May 15, 2014; it is reprinted with permission.


On the Way to Solitary, Women in Massachusetts Jail Get Strip Searched and Videotaped

by Victoria Law 

“When women are moved to the Segregation Unit for mental health or disciplinary ...

New Law Gives Parents Behind Bars in Washington State a Way to Hold onto Their Children

by Victoria Law, Truthout

On May 8, 2013, Washington State governor Jay Inslee signed SHB1284, or the Children of Incarcerated Parents bill, into law. The law guides the courts' discretion to delay the termination of parental rights if the parent's incarceration or prior incarceration is a significant factor for the ...

Birthing Behind Bars: A Campaign for Reproductive Justice in Prisons

by Victoria Law and Tina Reynolds

“I never thought of advocating outside of prison. I just wanted to have some semblance of a normal life once I was released,” stated Tina Reynolds, a mother and formerly incarcerated woman. But then she gave birth to her son while in prison for ...