On a brisk Friday morning, myself and three other Pathways team members were locked behind bars in the ‘C’ block of the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. Don’t worry, YWCA blog followers, no one at the YWCA has committed a felony and will be serving hard time in the slammer.
Starting in July, our crisis line will accept calls from inmates across the state who have experienced sexual assault while incarcerated. We were touring the state prison to get a sense of a prisoner’s daily life to better understand barriers inmates may face while making calls to our crisis line. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience to see the ways in which activities that I have complete autonomy over “on the outside,”such as accessing a phone or taking a shower, are restricted to a certain time of the day or permission from a corrections officer. Some prisoners could only make phone calls in the large common area of their block, within earshot of hundreds of other inmates and corrections officers. This could prove especially problematic for prisoners who want to reach out for support on our crisis line after being sexually assaulted by other inmates or officers within their block.
After touring both the high and low security portions of the prison, all four of us had a lot to discuss. But our final stop on the tour, the intake building, gave us more than enough to talk about on the hour and a half drive back to Missoula. After much insistence on our part, our tour guides finally let us meet a man who has been in the news a lot recently: Barry Beach. Speaking with an inmate really hammered home that regardless of what a person has done or has been convicted of – whether driving drunk or committing murder – no one deserves to be raped, inside or outside of prison.
Posted by Hattie, YWCA Missoula Pathways VISTA