Four recent University of Michigan graduates created a podcast that discusses women’s health in prison. The podcast, Women’s Health, Incarcerated (WHInc.), was inspired by their involvement with a club on campus called Women’s Organization on Rights to Health whose mission is to empower people to “confront prevalent issues in women’s health.”
The founders, Vennela Vellanki, Sitara Murali, Rachel Clark and Bhavana Garapati, got the idea for the podcast after attending WORTH’s end-of-the-year symposium featuring panelists from a nonprofit that provides doula support to pregnant women in Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti.
“We realized that we have this interest and passion for the legal system and for criminal justice,” Garapati said. “A lot of what we were hearing (in general) was about the experiences of men in prison predominantly. And there wasn’t as much being talked about in terms of women and specifically women’s health experiences. Even the simple things like, what is it like to experience a period in prison? There’s not that much dialogue.”
Vellanki said the podcast focuses on the intersection of a variety of topics that impact incarcerated women.
“Listeners should expect that what they’re listening to is very much centered on the intersectionality between women’s health, art and gender and the incarceration system,” Vellanki said.
WHInc. will also feature guest speakers who are either experts in the field or have personal experiences with the prison system.
“A lot of the experts in the field that we’re going to talk to and that we have been featuring, as well as the people who are formerly incarcerated, whose voices we’ve had the opportunity to elevate through the podcast, are going to be centered around their personal stories,” Vellanki said.
Though the topics involved with women’s health and incarceration are complex, the creators of this podcast said they want WHInc. to be accessible to everyone by emphasizing the sense of community within the issue.
“We toe the line between wanting it to be something really cool for a general audience, learning (about this for the first time), and then also wanting to be a resource for activists and community members who want to cultivate a community within WHInc,” Murali said.
LSA junior Katharine Boasberg is a member of the Prison Creative Arts Project at the University. PCAP often discusses health struggles of incarcerated people and utilizes a similar lens when viewing carceral settings. Boasberg shared her thoughts on the creation of a podcast of this type, noting the way a podcast’s casual tone benefits WHInc.’s mission.
“I think it’s a really great idea,” Boasberg said. “I think what’s hard about issues like women’s health in prison is that it’s such a niche subject and so any awareness about it is good awareness. And if you can do it in a playful way, it’s gonna make it seem like more of an approachable issue and so people are going to learn more about it and want to help and fix the issues.”
Garapati said all people should be discussing and paying attention to incarcerated women’s health, especially when voting politicians into office.
“It is a niche topic in the sense that not everyone thinks about women’s health in the incarceration system, but it’s not a niche topic in the sense that only some people should be interested in it,” Garapati said. “It’s something that very much so affects every single member of society, and it’s something that every single person should be critically thinking about when they’re voting and thinking about what policies they support. This is a population that really needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, even in the midst of this pandemic.”
Daily Staff Reporter Jenna Siteman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.