“We’re spending the month of November taking donations of unopen boxes of women’s hygiene products that we’re gonna donate to Tutwiler Women’s Prison,” said Cassidy Ellis, a graduate student studying communication studies and president of UAFC. “That’s something that doesn’t get talked a lot about on our campus – or really in general – in the media.”
Ellis said the organization wanted to raise awareness and bring attention to the harsh conditions of the prison, but also advocate for the women facing those harsh conditions.
The prison is an institution in Wetumpka, Alabama, and according to is in the top 10 worst prisons in the United States. According to , in April 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice reported to Gov. Robert Bentley condemning the “toxic, sexualized environment” of the prison. Reports stated complaints from inmates of sexual abuse and harassment from male prison guards. Inmates not only faced mistreatment, but also health-risking situations, such as months without feminine products and inadequate food supply. Nicole Brooks, a previous inmate, described the food as “.” Inmates often chose to go without food instead.
Lindsay Macher, the media and publicity coordinator for UAFC, recently wrote a column for The Crimson White about the situation.
“We [UAFC] decided with that [the column] and the drive this month [that] being a feminist group, you have to think how you’re gonna engage people,” said Macher, a junior majoring in chemical engineering. “So you lobby … and you have the big social reform and political reform, but then we thought ‘How are we actually helping individual women?’ ”
Pink boxes labeled with “UAFC” have been dispensed around campus for students to donate products, and UAFC has reached out to several interested organizations.
University organizations and staff collecting for the cause include Delta Zeta, Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Dr. Ariane Prohaska, the Women and Gender Resource Center and the main office of Manly Hall. So far, UAFC has collected 75 boxes of hygiene products for the prison.
“Everyone deserves the same access to resources and access to dignity and respect,” said Prohaska, an associate professor of sociology. “I think that’s important here with the tampon/pad drive.”
Prohaska said she felt angry when she heard about the allegations because she thinks individuals forget about people who are living in prisons, and they deserve the same kind of human rights.
According to , since 2009 there have been at least six correctional officers from the prison convicted of sexual crimes, and the Justice Department continues to investigate the situation.
After learning about the investigation, Macher said she felt furious about the information.
“My first thought was ‘I’m pissed,’ ” Macher said. “Then I thought, ‘How was this actually happening? Why are people not doing anything about it? Why do people not care? Why are people trying to justify it?’ ”
Macher said she doesn’t appreciate how people assume inmates are in jail for a reason, so they shouldn’t receive the equal treatment they deserve.
“I think it [the drive] just kinda furthers the idea that feminism isn’t this one … thing, and there’s not just this one thing that we’re trying to do,” Ellis said. “I think that it will strengthen the movement on campus partly because it shows we are invested in not just talking about the issue but actually advocating for and fixing the issues.”
Ellis said once the drive is complete, UAFC will travel to Wetumpka and deliver the donations to the prison.
“I think that their [UAFC] mission is more than just about women – it’s a social justice mission,” Prohaska said.