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Visiting a Women’s Prison with My Criminal Justice Class

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Posted on April 16, 2019 by By Ashley Foley, a Delaware Valley University counseling psychology major.

The Edna Mahan prison trip was not only interesting and informative, but it was also a great learning experience. We learned a lot about what ages the women were, jobs, pay rates, commissary, clothing, medical issues, and daily life for the women imprisoned at Edna Mahan. 

I was pretty nervous, not knowing what to expect. Once we began the tour, we went by a church and a dormitory where they held puppies for Puppies Behind Bars. We learned that women who learn how to train and take care of these dogs can get paid up to $5 an hour which was the highest paid job and if they have great success, they can take tests to become a veterinary assistant. I thought this was a great way to provide companionship and a possible job opportunity upon future release. 

A lot of times when people think of prison inmates, they think of stereotypes like heavy tattoos and gang members. Honestly, this is some of what I expected to see, and Lord was I wrong. I saw an elderly woman who was maybe 70. I’m not sure what she was in there for, but it broke my heart knowing she was that age and locked up. 

As a group, we sat down and spoke to two women who had committed homicide. They just looked like your normal everyday people. Ms. Clemmons was very funny, outgoing, and upbeat. Brenda was a bit more reserved but still very receptive to us and our questions. They shared with us that they both received their bachelor’s degrees and are not done yet. They still want to grow and improve themselves and their lives. Even the women we saw on the grounds, they looked like someone you would pass on the street on a regular day.

We learned a lot about the everyday lives of women who are in a correctional facility. They would get up, shower, go to breakfast go to work or go to classes, have recreational time, go to dinner and follow the rest of their schedule. Some of the jobs included janitorial, kitchen, Puppies Behind Bars, seamstress for clothes and sheets, library, medical, and groundskeeper. 

We learned about rules the inmates are required to follow. Whenever the inmates get paid, a third of the paycheck goes to court fees, lawyer fees, and whatever else needs to be handled on the outside of the prison. Also, if you can’t do heavy work due to age or a disability, then your job is to be responsible for cleaning the dorms. The biggest problem the prison faces is drugs circling around. Women will “cheek” medication so, that they don’t swallow the pill and will trade it for favors. 

The look of the prison is different than what I expected, it was very open with the view of a highway. The women there, a lot of them rehabilitated while incarcerated, look like your everyday people. It was very enlightening to see what these women see and do every day. 

About the Author

Courtesy: Ashley Foley Ashley Foley, a Delaware Valley University counseling psychology major

Ashley Foley is a Delaware Valley University counseling psychology major. She recently learned about the criminal justice system by visiting the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women as part of a class trip.