Evie Litwok is a formerly incarcerated advocate for prison reform. Ms. Litwok's advocacy efforts focus on the experiences of the elderly and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Hear her story, first hand, below.
"They said to me, ‘freaky woman’ but then they called me Ms. Litwok. There wasn’t a single person on the compound that called me anything else but Ms. Litwok. They refused to call me Evie, because of my age. They were incredible. They did it to a person-- and I’m talking about the incarcerated women because we don’t say inmates.The incarcerate women never call a older person by their first name."
"The prison has two levels. And there’s a hill that goes from where you sleep to where you eat that called the Hallelujah Hill. It’s called the Hallelujah Hill because the chapel is on its way down-- but for the older women, it’s called the Hallelujah Hill because we say "Hallelujah" if we made it down. It’s a mile and a half steep downhill. If you’re older and have mental problem which I have vertigo issues, balance issues, and high blood pressure issues. So when you’re walking down the steep hill in the rain or snow, and there's nothing- even though there’s plenty of cement and trucks- the roads and everything in the prison is all a mess. You have to look down while walking down to make sure, like especially if you’re older, you have to look down so you won’t trip or put your ankle in because you don’t see a crack. Worst yet, you eat the food then you have to come back up. The hill up is so bad that you have to stop-- there’s a back hill which takes longer, but there’s trees there. So after each meal, you can see every woman hanging on the trees, unable to breathe."
"Because I was an open lesbian and because I was not interested in having a relationship... one of the things that goes on in prison is that you don’t have family. You’re taken out of society. So, people recreate families in prison. They get a mother, they get a father, they make daughters. You hear people saying, “I’m going over to visit my aunts.” They build these entire families and as you come in, you get integrated. You know, I wasn’t a family builder. I just observed this, but people did it.
Also, what goes on is women get into relationships with women. They’re straight. But they get into relationships with women who call them 'gay for the stay'. They use to hang out, and go out to get married and have babies afterward. I know most of them who I went to prison with, and I laugh because- you know- it’s survival. It’s not sex. It’s compassion. It’s roleplaying to have something to do. There may be some sex, but it’s really not the reason it happens.
It happens because you have to do something in prison to distract yourself from the insanity of being prison, the brutality of being in prison. You have sadistic guards who will have you come out on the compound while it’s raining and stand there for 2 hours. And then, you have the senior person of all the units saying, “You’re lucky we give you clothes.’’ I turned to some and say "I can’t believe that she f**king said that.” I mean who are we that we’re treated so poorly?"