For three hours a week, I am not in prison, I am not a product of a dysfunctional family, I’m not from the projects. I’m anything I want to be.Prisoner-Participant, Bedford Hills
Who are the women in New York State’s prisons?*
- 65% of women under custody are first-time offenders
- 83% of women sent to prison in 2008 were convicted of non-violent drug crimes
- 68% are women of color; 73% are mothers
- 54% do not have a high school diploma; 35% read at or below 8th grade level
- 12% are HIV positive, 80 times higher than the general population
- 22% have Hepatitis C, 14 times higher than the general population
- 88% have a substance abuse problem
RTA in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (BHCF)
The women of RTA at BHCF are healing.
Time is healing our wounds, our trauma, our self-destruction. Prison, we’ve learned, is not a physical realm but a psychological and/or spiritual realm.
It is often unrecognizable in the so-called “real” and “free” world. We have not made one mistake in life that brought us here but a pattern of habitual choices in an unhealthy and unsafe world that tries so hard to create our prison.
Social institutions have failed us time and time again.
We got lost in that prison.
We discovered our true identities, strengths and weaknesses, we learned to love ourselves and defend our humanity, in an island of solitary confinement at BHCF.
This work provides an inspiring image of a group haven for women who have freed themselves from prison yet remain behind bars.Prisoner Participant, Bedford Hills
RTA began working in Bedford Hills, a maximum security prison for women, in 2008. The response has been beyond our expectations. From first protesting, “But I can’t draw” or “I’m so bad at this!” to tackling Shakespearean female archetypes, RTA is guiding the women of Bedford Hills in a profound process of self-discovery.