Tuesday, November 24, 2020

"Belly of the Beast": in California, female prisoners sterilized illegally possibly for eugenics



I hadn’t even heard the stories that forced sterilization of women (often PoC) go on in prisons, especially California’s, but Erika Cohn laid it all out in a documentary, filled with interviews, aired Monday Nov. 23, 2020 on PBS Independent Lens, called “Belly of the Beast”m PBS link.

NPR has a useful historical link on the practice, which continued until at least 2010. 

The women talked unashameably about their prospects for love again.  And they describe not knowing they will be sterilized, for “eugenics”.

You could imagine connecting this to Bryan Stevenson’s work on wrongful convictions (“Just Mercy”).

The film seems to be related to or inspired by the book “In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison” from Vintage Books by Jack Henry Abbott (1991).

The prison is located near Chowchilla, in the Central Valley along I-5.   I’ve been in the area twice, in 2002 and 2018.

The film was followed by a brief QA where the director talks with several former prisoners.

Wikipedia embed shows the prison from the air (click for attribution).   The film shows various shots of downtown Sacramento (visited 2018) and the Capitol (my pic at night).

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