(Native Arkansan, Served 12 months in a federal prison in Texas. She delivered a child while in prison. Her story illustrates the differences in federal and state prison systems)

I saw the doctor once a month. I went, everyday, to get my prenatal vitamins. They took me out to a free world doctor to get an ultra sound done. We ate three times a day, and you could buy snacks off of the commissary. So if you wanted to eat more, you could eat more.

I left the actual prison, and went to a program called the MINT program, which is mothers and infants needed together. And they send you there, three months before you have the baby, and the baby stays there with you for three months. So at this program, you got a little bit more, more care than you did at the actual prison. You went to the doctor twice a month and they put you on WIC. Once the baby was born, we went to an actual hospital and stayed in the hospital for two days because it was just like I was free. But, I knew. They let the family come up to the hospital with you, visit with you.

The baby went with me to the half way house. After my three months, like it was time for me to come back to the halfway house in Little Rock. So after my three months, my mom got her. Some girls have to go back to prison. So after their three months is up, they have to find somebody to get the baby. And they give them a two-day furlow to go get the baby placed, and get back to prison.

Well, we came home when we got out of the halfway house. My brother picked me up. I had that weekend. So that Monday my baby, she was only three months, but she could tell. She cried. She had been attached to me. We had been together for those three months. Nobody could come and pick her up at the halfway house and take her anywhere, so it was like me and her everyday, all day.

Well,(the other kids) they just thought it was a school, they thought I was away at school. They had a playground at the prison so when your family came to visit you could take the kids and they had a children's center too. They could watch movies, they could make cards and draw.

They were real supportive, they were disappointed cause no one had expected that, no one. That wasn't designed for me. They couldn't see that in my future. I didn't see that in my future. But they were real supportive of me, and I know I couldn't have gotten through it without them.

He (her ex-husband) was sentenced to four years. He testified against some people, went states witness, got his time cut, to a year. So he almost beat me out. I divorced him, because when we got out. It was going down the same road. I learned my lesson the first time. I knew, just being away from my kids for that year, it took a lot out on me. And it took a toll out on me as well.

My oldest son is just, like he's just angry because I was away from him for a while. Just like my baby was born and we were together everyday. And then all of a sudden to have you mother snatched away from you. You might get to see her next month, you might not. My mom tried to bring them down there, as often as she could, but that took a toll on them.

I would get to come home on weekends. I got weekend passes. So I was basically trying to spend all, as much time as I could get with them. And I put them in different activities like football. I tried to do as much with them and regain that friendship, because we had lost a year. And so much has changed. They had gotten older. Things I was used to them doing, they weren't doing anymore. Well my mom was there to discipline them, but grandparents let them get away with a little more that what parents let them get away with. So I, it was hard for me to discipline them, because I felt like I wasn't there for them. So I just cant come back into their life and be as stern on them as I was before I left. And they're getting better, they're both getting better. But I know it played a big role in their life the year I was gone.

I want people to know that you shouldn't judge people by their past. Because a lot of times, we don't have control over what someone else does. I didn't have control over my husband selling drugs. So they knew that it wasn't like I was encouraging him to sell drugs. Because I know that it was wrong. I just got caught up, you know, because of what he was doing. And a lot of women, a lot of women are like that. Just because women go to prison, doesn't mean that they're bad. It doesn't mean that they're hard core criminals, and people shouldn't frown on them. I felt like the more women that come forward, the more it will help other women know that it is nothing for you to be embarrassed about. There are a lot of women who are embarrassed by it. And I mean it's a part of life. It's a phase we all go through, well not all. It's a phase that some women go through for some reason or another. It goes deeper than just the mothers that are in prison, and the fathers that are in prison. The children that they leave behind are suffering more than anybody could imagine.

I was always active. Anytime an event was to go on, everybody always came to me and asked me to help them to get it started. I was real outgoing in high school, but I got sidetracked. Well, they told me that I was just as guilty, because I knew about it, and I should have told the police. I should have called the police and told them. I couldn't believe it, cause I felt like I wasn't the one selling drugs. And, they even had me on tape saying that this is wrong and you don't need to do this. We can make it, you know, you don't need to do this. They had recorded us talking, so they knew I wasn't going along with it. I guess they wanted to just make the bust look bigger.

It was real hard on her (her mother). Sometimes, she had to work. She couldn't get assistance. She had to pay childcare. It was like they were giving her the run around to help her pay for childcare, child assistance. The most stressful thing for her was trying to work, because she had to take care of them. And, she did the best she could.

It was seven hours to get to the prison. Seven hours. She would try to come once a month. Then once every two months. Then like Thanksgiving weekend, the whole family came down. So I got to see them. When I went to Fort Worth, they came more, because that was only five hours.

The women I talked to said that they wish that they had something like that in Arkansas. They had never heard of that program before.

Fort Worth was the halfway house. But the program I was in, it was like separate from the actual halfway house. All the women who were there in the program I was in were pregnant had a baby. The people who were in the actual halfway house, were just getting released from prison. So, we would see these people getting up going to work everyday. We couldn't go. We went to Wal-Mart once a month. And if you didn't have a doctor's appointment that month, you really didn't leave.

Kenya Richardson