In 1923, 17-year-old Carrie Buck was raped and impregnated. Her adoptive family, trying to avoid the public shame of having an unwed mother in their midst, had her committed to an institution for the "feeble minded." Because she was supposedly "feeble-minded" and the daughter of an unwed mother herself, the State of Virginia sought to sterilize her and, in 1927, the Supreme Court ruled in its favor.
One would think we've come a long way since 1927. But apparently we haven't.
Inside This Place, Not of It: Stories from Women's Prisons is the ninth book in the Voice of Witness series, which carries the Studs Turkel torch by using oral history to share stories from the margins of America. Inside This Place has thirteen accounts from people who have been—and several who remain—incarcerated in women's prisons. Editors Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman and a team of nineteen interviewers conducted over seventy interviews with thirty individuals over the course of ten months.
During the summer of 2007, while on a residency with Modern Fuel Artist Run Centre/The Artel, I worked on an art project with the women in The Isabel MacNeil House (the only low security federal prison for women in Canada). For three weeks I met with the women three times a week to paint and draw with them with the intention to eventually create an animation with their artworks (no cameras are allowed in the facility). The final project was put to the music of "We become our own wolves" by Rae Spoon. Upon completion, there was a screening for the women and each received a copy of the DVD.