Prison Radio
Heather Jarvis

My name is Heather Jarvis, and this is “Women Are Different.”

I sat on my bunk anticipating the morning supply drop along with the rest of the women in my dorm. It was that time of the month for me, my menstrual, which meant a lot of women who have been housed together for months came on cycle at the same time. We were in such close proximity it was unavoidable. I was anxiously staring at the door and listening for it to pop and the supply bag with our rations for the day to be thrown in. We were all about to pounce with a bag for pads.

You should know women’s incarceration has grown twice the pace of men’s in recent decades. Oftentimes the gender-specific needs of women are not met while incarcerated. All of us twenty-five women crammed in that small dorm, we were allotted 10 pads per day. It was not regulated, so the dominating personalities sorted the supplies—and they got a hold of it and used it as a way of control. It forced us to succumb to conflict, we salvaged the bag like [inaudible] only to get knocked on the way or be too late. The lucky few got pads.

231,000 women and girls are incarcerated in the United States. I’m one of these women caught in the masses, but I’m more than math. I’m more than a number despite what the system believes. I’m a mother, a daughter, a friend, a sibling, and simply put, a person. This system forgets that I’m a person. I don’t deserve to bleed all over myself.

According to a press release in 2019, women are disproportionately located in county jail. 60% aren’t even convicted of a crime and are awaiting trial. I spent 15 months stuck in that county jail with an unreasonable bond like so other women going through the [inaudible]. I did my crime. But did that make me less of a woman?

Nothing about jail is adequate for women’s needs. Shaving happened in the dead of night. You are allotted five minutes crowded around the sink with a dull [inaudible] blade razor. Women oftentimes have long thick hair they take pride in. In the free world, these luscious locks are a blessing. In jail, e a burden. Left with a [inaudible] comb, it’s almost impossible to brush it out. We are allotted one bottle of maximum shower and shape. The commissary options, if [inaudible], aren’t much better. We wear men’s clothes and essentially we live in a chaotic society that is centered around men.

I’m not a man. I’m a woman. The system needs to recognize this because women’s needs are different. Women are different. And the fight to end incarceration and improve harsh conditions, I beg the world: please don’t leave women behind.

These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.