It’s a real life story of a white-collar woman from the upper side of the New England tracks who ended up with a 15-month sentence in a woman’s prison for for drug trafficking. As I started on the first chapter, I was fully prepared for a story filled with dramatic prison fights and catty, underhanded survival tactics. Instead, I found myself immersed in a story about camaraderie, codes of respect and friendship.
At first, I admit I was a little skeptical. I mean let’s face it - a group of women from all walks of life locked together inside a building with little light, second rate food and armed guards. Not a healthy environment to start with. But what I found more surprising was the lack of bullying or harassment that I naturally assumed would be included.
Perhaps the writer just eliminated those parts. Perhaps she was just keen on showing a different side prison and wanted the story to send a message about positive female relationships.
No matter what her intent, I found the story and the message inspiring. She described how prisoners would help each other out by providing toiletries to the newbies to ensure they had necessities that only women could understand. She described how inmates would not speak to each other in a disrespectful fashion because it just ‘wasn’t done.’
It made me look back to some of the places I’ve worked in, where competition between female colleagues was fierce, gossip rampant and bullying the norm. I’ve written and published a couple of articles on workplace bullying and have done extensive research on this topic, based on my own experience as well as from outside sources. According to experts this disappointing behaviour is on the rise, and usually occurs in workplaces dominated by women.
So my question is, if female prisoners can learn to have each other’s back in order to survive in a corrupt system, why is it that professional business people still struggle with this concept?
What touched me the most was how the author, an educated woman from a privileged home found herself popular with inmates whose lives were so vastly different. She learned how to accept these differences without discrimination.
Could it have been mostly fiction? Perhaps…but really when you consider human nature, a book filled with crude details about manipulative women fighting against each other would be a bigger seller, wouldn’t it?
At the end of the day, there’s no way to determine what goes on inside a women’s prison unless I experience it for myself. Hopefully I won’t have that opportunity. But the story itself, watered down or not, inspired me. So my downtime in June became yet another learning experience and one that will help me in my own future encounters as I continue to make my way as an independent, professional woman in the outside world.