Female Inmates From Danbury Prison Still in Limbo, Lacking Key Services

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Sept. 3 2014 5:06 PM

Female Inmates From Danbury Prison Still in Limbo, Lacking Key Services

A year ago, I wrote about a victory for more than 1,000 female inmates at the women’s prison in Danbury, Connecticut, featured in the Netflix show Orange Is the New Black. Like the character Piper in the show’s second season, the women were slated for transfer—to a newly constructed prison, far away, in Aliceville, Alabama. The proposed move would have sent many of the women hundreds of miles from their families in cities in the Northeast. Their beds at Danbury were to be filled with men.

The prisoners’ plight attracted the attention of the real Piper Kerman, who wrote the book the show is based on, and of 11 senators from the Northeast. The federal Bureau of Prisons temporarily suspended the transfers last August and announced that, along with creating a facility at Danbury for men, it would create enough minimum-security beds for women to keep female inmates who were U.S. citizens in the Northeast.


But ten months later, “no ground has been broken at Danbury for new construction, and the BOP has declined to provide a detailed timeline for the completion of the new facility,” according to a new report by the Arthur Liman Program at Yale Law School (where I teach). All but 200 of Danbury’s female inmates have been transferred to other facilities, including jails in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. The jails aren’t far from the families of many of the women, and that’s a significant boon. But the jails aren’t designed for long-term stays. They lack key services, like residential drug treatment, apprenticeships, and decent jobs. The women don’t know how long they’ll stay at these jails, but the BOP now says construction at Danbury could take 30 months.

The 11 Northeast senators released another letter to the BOP on Wednesday, calling the lack of progress on the renovations at Danbury “unjustifiable.” Most of the female inmates who are now being shunted around committed nonviolent crimes. Orange Is the New Black makes its viewers care about a slew of amazingly interesting incarcerated characters. But it’s their real counterparts who need help.

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones



The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.