On Monday’s Four Corners, “Criminalising Women”, produced by Janine Cohen, investigates why so many women are going to jail.
“We’re criminalising more women than ever before.” Prisoner rights activist.
“I have been to prison five times… I have been to prison for break and enter, driving while disqualified, driving under the influence of ice and escape police custody.” Bekki.
Bekki has just walked out of prison after serving a six-month jail sentence. The cameras are rolling as she takes her first steps.
“It’s great to be out…I’ve got some underwear, some papers and $50 and that’s it.” Bekki.
She’s part of a fast growing group of criminals sentenced to jail in Australia. Across the nation, there are now more women in prison than ever before. And once they’re out they’re very likely to reoffend and end up back inside.
“I’ve been to prison four times. I was in prison for drug dealing. The hardest thing about staying out of prison is dealing with the isolation, the judgements, the stigma.” Fran.
On Monday Four Corners investigates why so many women are going to jail by meeting three women who know exactly what it’s like.
“Women’s prisons are filled with stories of people like me.” Bekki.
Filmed over three months, Bekki, Fran and Donna give raw and compelling accounts of their lives as they begin again on the outside.
“I need a job and I need a job fast. I am willing to do anything, you know, clean toilets if I have to. I don’t care.” Fran.
Each one must overcome their own demons while convincing the world around them that they are worth another chance.
“I have been to prison more than 30 times…The hardest thing for me to stay out of prison is being judged for my criminal history.” Donna.
The vast majority of women who land in prison have been physically or sexually abused. Many have turned to drugs, and then a life of crime. Their chances of rehabilitation are made harder as they often struggle to find work, housing and support on the outside.
“No one wants to employ you when there’s 100 other applicants that don’t have criminal records. So why would they want to employ you? Sometimes I feel like I’m just beating my head against a brick wall.” Fran.
The camera captures the highs and lows as they search for accommodation and a job.
“It would be lovely to be able to help her, she’s a person that is in housing need. It’s really sad and you know you want to help everybody [but] you can’t.” Emergency Housing co-ordinator.
Despite their troubled histories, Bekki, Fran and Donna make progress. Their experiences give real insight into how to break the cycle.
“It’s a whole new chapter in my life absolutely. Only good things come from here. I’ve got such a good feeling. I’ve got such a good feeling, there’s hope, it’s given me hope.” Fran.
Monday 25th February at 8.30pm on ABC.