Tech students visit women’s prison

A group of 12 students from Tech’s Sociology and Criminology Club spent a day understanding what life is like for women behind bars.


The students and advisor of the club visited The Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville on Oct. 10.


“I felt that the trip served to dispel many myths regarding the incarcerated population,” senior Presley Alford said. “The prison tour presented topics such as incarceration and recidivism in a meaningful way.”


Nicole Cook, instructor of criminal justice, researches women who are incarcerated and has visited this prison three times. It is the primary prison for female offenders and has a capacity of up to 700 inmates.


“You get a different experience every time. This one was unique because it was longer and we got to experience other areas of the prison I have never been to before,” she said.


Cook said the prison is smaller than two other prisons she has visited in Georgia. The Tennessee prison has more greenery and sunlight and seems a little more “inviting” for a prison. Everyone they interacted with were friendly and open.


“We were greeted by everybody and I think that there’s this kind of unspoken stereotype that people in prison are dangerous and unapproachable,” Cook said. “Luckily for us, we were able to interact with some of the women living in prison and I think that kind of humanized them because they are just people.”


The prison offers multiple rehabilitation programs including educational courses to earn degrees and vocational programs like cosmetology and culinary classes, she said.


During their visit, the offenders demonstrated the new Serving with Canines program in which offenders to raise and train service dogs for people with mobility disabilities, seizure disorders and diabetes, Cook said.


“The woman we saw outside with her dog said that she feels like she can’t impact life inside the prison but with training the dog it gives her an opportunity to do that,” she said.


Despite the positive things the prison offers, the prisoners face the reality of being behind bars.


“It was hard to see the oldest inmate was in the hospital wing and she was dying of cancer, but at least she was getting the medicine she needed,” Cook said.


Overall, the experience was an important lesson for her students to understand how a criminal justice system can affect change.


“I hope that the students got from this trip is that all these people are just like us and that it could be any of us in the blink of an eye just depending on the circumstance,” she said.