WOMEN IN PRISON: The Purgatory Of Being Invisible

Women are the less visible victims of COVID-19 behind bars.

They are so often overlooked in a criminal justice system that was not designed for them. Though only a small number have died—at least 13 reported as of Wednesday—their stories illuminate the unique problems women face in prison.

They also reflect the all-too-common ways they get there in the first place: drug addiction and violence involving the men in their lives.

The vast majority of women behind bars are mothers—by some estimates, as many as 80 percent. Many were raising kids on their own before getting locked up.

And measures to slow the virus, including eliminating prison visitation and restricting access to phones, have cut off communication to their children and families on the outside.

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DRUGS ARE A SYMPTOM OF DESPERATION, NOT A CRIME

A US federal prison inmate who gave birth while she was on a ventilator has died of Covid-19.

Andrea Circle Bear, 30, died on 28 April while serving a 26-month sentence for a drug charge in South Dakota.

There have now been 30 coronavirus-related deaths of federal inmates, and more than 1,300 confirmed cases according to the Bureau of Prisons.

She appears to be the first federal female inmate to have died with coronavirus.

There are around 150,000 federal inmates in the US. A federal inmate is someone inside a prison or jail operated by the federal government as opposed to a particular state.

It is not clear how many inmates have died in state-run prisons.

The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization which reports on the US criminal justice system, gathered data from state and federal prison agencies across the US and estimated there have been more than 9,400 cases and 131 coronavirus-related deaths.

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