When I Left the Women’s Prison, Health Issues Followed Me

After nearly a decade of sleeping on a metal bed frame with a 1-inch foam cushion inside prison, I now have lumbar scoliosis. I essentially have a C-shaped curve in my lumbar. This condition is most frequently seen in children, but the degenerative version occurs most commonly in adults over 65 years old, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. I’m 49 years old.

Behind bars, I didn’t get outside a lot. I wasn’t exposed to much sun or wind, and my skin is clear with few age or sun spots. People who meet me tell me that I don’t look my age. Most of my friends who are still inside also don’t look their age.

But physically, it’s a whole other story. People inside don’t get proper nutrition, exercise, rest or health care. According to Prison Policy Initiative, a research firm that focuses on mass incarceration, people in state prisons suffer from chronic health problems at a disproportionately high rate compared to the overall U.S. population. On top of that, correctional health care is difficult to access, low-quality and expensive.