WYSO

Women's Voices From Dayton Correctional Institution

Credit Juliet Fromholt / WYSO

Women’s Voices from Dayton Correctional Institution is a series of stories based on WYSO’s Community Voices class at the prison on Dayton's west side. WYSO selected 10 incarcerated women through a competitive application process, and taught them interviewing, storytelling and recording skills.

The series is produced and mixed by WYSO managing editor Lewis Wallace and Community Voices producer Renee Wilde, with volunteer support from Community Voices graduate Dr. Venita Kelley, editorial oversight from general manager Neenah Ellis and production and design help from webmaster Juliet Fromholt.  Students who participated in WYSO's class at the prison were Shannon Evans, Alisha Federici, LaShae Landry, Diana Linz, Tyra Patterson, Or'Zaria Slaton, Nikkia Sullivan, Lana Williams, Melody Williams and Aimee Wissman.

Tyra Patterson explores her new neighborhood in downtown Cincinnati, weeks after her release from a Cleveland detention facility.
Jess Mador / WYSO

On Christmas morning Tyra Patterson left a Cleveland prison after serving 23 years of a life sentence. She was a teenager in 1994 when she was convicted in connection with the robbery and murder of Dayton 15-year-old Michelle Lai.

Patterson always said her confession to robbery was coerced. Over the years her innocence claims garnered support, including from the murder-victim’s sister, Holly Lai Holbrook.

Last fall, a state board granted parole.

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Juliet Fromholt / WYSO

The U.S. has the largest prison population of any nation and in the past three decades women have become the fastest growing segment of prisoners, double the rate of men. Between 1980 and 2006 the population of women in prison has jumped 800%, due primarily to the government’s war on drugs.

The prison system is scrambling to house this influx of incarcerated women. In 2011 the Dayton Correctional Institution became the third women’s prison in Ohio, when it was changed from a 500-bed male facility to a women’s prison currently housing over 900 inmates.

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Juliet Fromholt / WYSO

Lana Williams reflects on a typical day in prison, and how she’s getting through a life sentence without parole.

Highlights from the audio:

“You know, some days I can go through the day like a breeze. Almost like I’m at home. Literally free at home. Without a care in the world. But then there are other times when I feel really exactly what this place is sought out to make you feel like. And that is closed in, away from everyone and everybody.”

Women's Voices dayton correctional institution
Juliet Fromholt / WYSO

Or’Zaria Slaton had a difficult childhood—she says she was raised by gangsters, and spent time in custody of lots of different adults, in and out of group homes and foster care.

Ultimately, she says it left her an angry and self-protective person.

Woman's Voices prison dayton correctional
Juliet Fromholt / WYSO

Diana Linz has always had a connection with dogs, and being in the dog program at the prison has helped her  cope with being locked up.

Highlights from the audio:

“When I grew up, I was very lonely. I only had a dog and a couple of cats. And when I left home, somehow I felt like I had to take in every animal that I saw...I kinda got wrapped up in selling marijuana in order to support my dog habit. My dog rescue habit.”

In Memory Of Alisha Federici

May 2, 2016
Women's Voices From DCI - Logo 1
Juliet Fromholt / WYSO

One of the students in WYSO’s class at Dayton Correctional Institution, Alisha Federici, got out just after class ended. She returned to her family in Waverly, Ohio, in Pike County. She’d been incarcerated for a little over a year after years of problems with drugs. Three weeks after her release and not long after her 26th birthday, Alisha died of an overdose. In an interview with another incarcerated woman, Shannon Evans, Alisha had talked about her past trying to go to rehab.

Women's Voices dayton correctional institution
Juliet Fromholt / WYSO

Shannon Evans came to prison earlier this year after a three-year spiral into drug addiction. As she puts it, she used to be a “goody-two-shoes” and never imagined she’d end up strung out on heroin. But her story isn’t uncommon: the problem with prescription drugs and heroin has spiked in Ohio in the last few years, and the proportion of women killed by drug overdoses has also gone way up.

Woman's Voices prison dayton correctional
Juliet Fromholt / WYSO

During WYSO’s community voices course at Dayton Correctional Institution, the topic of prison food kept coming up. Dayton Correctional Institution gets its official prison food from a service that’s been wracked with controversy, but residents with funds available are able to supplement with commissary items. Aimee Wissman, one of the students in our class at the prison, told us she makes her own Chinese food in the microwave by “frying” rice in butter and orange pop.

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Juliet Fromholt / WYSO

Nikkia Sullivan grew up wanting to be a kingpin. At 13 she set out to make her dream come true. In this story she talks to fellow inmate LeShae Landry about what it was like growing up in that lifestyle

Highlights from the audio:

“My day started at 8 p.m. That’s when my day started. Call my homeboys, whatever the case may be, like, you all got any licks for me? Ya got some money for me?”

Women's Voices dayton correctional institution
Juliet Fromholt / WYSO

Melody Williams is serving life without parole. Because of the severity of her crime she was sent to a supermax/maximum security facility, and spent the first year and a half of her sentence in lock-down.

In this audio story, Melody talks to fellow Dayton Correctional Institution resident Shannon Evans about coming to prison and how she coped with being locked up for 21 hours a day.

Highlights from the audio:

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