Beatrice Codianni is a 66-year-old woman who served 15 years in prison after her conviction for Racketeering. She was a well-known gang leader who was released in 2008 from FCI Danbury. She went on to successfully reintegrate into the community becoming the Managing Editor of Reentry Central, a national website devoted to criminal justice reform and reentry.
Prior to gaining employment with Reentry Central, Beatrice had no success with obtaining employment. Today she is extremely grateful for a second chance to be a productive member of society who is making a difference. Beatrice works diligently to help educate the public about issues that impact the criminal justice system and women, particularly incarcerated mothers who face the daunting challenges of reentry.
Recently there was a media frenzy concerning the arrest of Teresa Guidice of The Real Housewives of New Jersey television show. Reporters and producers of celebrity shows became aware of Beatrice Codianni expertise in the area of incarceration and reached out to her about her time spent in Danbury Prison Camp. In an effort to sensationalize Teresa Guidice’s incarceration the media contacted Beatrice.
At first Beatrice didn’t want to talk to anyone, because she felt the arrest was being sensationalized and it would exploit Teresa Guidice’s predicament.
Then she reconsidered, thinking maybe it would be a perfect opportunity to shed some light on mass incarceration in America and the plight of women, and particularly mothers, in prison. Beatrice felt she could use the opportunity to educate the public whose closest glimpse of the reality of women in prison is the new series Orange is the New Black. According to Beatrice Codianni this is an untrue depiction of life at FPC Danbury, as she remembers it.
Beatrice finally interviewed with Inside Edition, and before she knew it, she was also talking to Life and Style, In Touch and Star magazines, and The Insider television show. Portions of her interviews were syndicated to other media outlets, as well. Beatrice sought to preface her comments by saying “this is not just about Teresa but all the women at the Danbury Camp as well as women in similar situations across the nation.”
Beatrice was asked about what Teresa Guidice’s first day might be like, and what visitation and the food was like inside the Camp. She was asked to describe a typical day. She told media, “Teresa joins 2.2 million other people in America’s prison system,” and she spoke at length about the number of children with an incarcerated parent.
The content of the interviews was edited in such a way that left Beatrice very disappointed. Information that she found pertinent was cut from the magazines articles and TV shows. So, I asked Beatrice to share with me some of those thoughts on women in reentry here:
Women need to be more diligent when seeking employment. Finding a job is difficult for anyone, but for a woman who has a criminal record and is the primary caregivers of her children, it is particularly challenging. Not only do women returning from incarceration face the challenge of reconnecting with their children emotionally, but also in many cases they have to fight to regain custody of them. That is almost a full-time job in itself.
Historically the gender pay gap for women vs. men is so extensive that the average living wage job may not suffice for a woman returning from incarceration. Oftentimes a woman is forced to take a second job to support herself and her children.
Most people who have never been to prison think that when someone is released they are overcome with joy, but that isn’t always the case. The stress level can be through the roof. Studies have shown that women with a criminal record are judged more harshly and stigmatized more by society than their male counterparts. Studies have also shown that the majority of women in prison have been victims of sexual and other types of physical abuse.
The emotional and physical scars don’t disappear when women are released. Then, most reentry programs are geared toward men and fail to recognize the needs of women such as mental health counseling and job training for employment in nontraditional employment. Many do not consider the need for childcare provisions, either. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the growing number of elderly women being released from prison after serving numerous years. Again, most reentry programs are geared toward the needs of men, as men make up a large part of the reentering population, but ignoring the particular needs of women, whether young, or old, can have a disastrous effect on these women and their communities.