The US penal system takes lives away from female inmates and turns them into constantly humiliated slaves, Maria Butina, who returned to Russia after spending more than a year in an American prison, said.
Butina, who was charged with failing to properly register as a foreign agent, spent a month in solitary confinement before pleading guilty to the charges. The Russian said she only did it because she knew that her persecution was politically motivated and a fair trial was impossible.
“The worst thing is the US Marshals Services where they humiliate you; forbid you from going to the toilet for 16 hours; deny you water or food,” Butina said as she talked to RT and Sputnik news agency on a plane that was taking her from the US back to Moscow. After that a low-security prison in Tallahassee, Florida seemed like “paradise” for her as she was allowed to go for walks and got a lot better rations.
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“I was just a stack of bones,” she recalled, but daily jogging and other exercises helped a lot. “I had problems with my memory, but it returned to me. My eyesight also improved.”
However, it’s still a very tough environment where humiliation of inmates is widespread as some officers treat prisoners “absolutely terribly.”
Butina recalled that just one day before she was to be released, a guard, who became unhappy with how the prisoners were executing their duties in the kitchen, warned them: “If you will do that again I will f**k each and every one of you.”
When a guard is cursing at you in the most obscene words possible… It just shouldn’t be like that. We’re women after all.
At first, the relations with fellow inmates were “tense” after she was transferred from Alexandria to a correctional facility in Tallahassee because “everybody watched the news” where she was portrayed as a villain, the 30-year-old recalled.
But that changed quickly when people got to know her. The activist said that a newspaper article in her defense was also passed on inside the prison and after some time “even some guards were telling me: ‘It seems that they lied to us on this one.’”
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When she returned to her block after being handed the “shocking” 18-month sentence the girls hugged her, saying “It’s OK. You’ll get through this.”
“We had good relations with the other inmates,” Butina said, also adding that many in prison simply called her “Russia,” instead of using her real name.
The activist worked in the kitchen in Tallahassee and also volunteered as a math teacher, training inmates for the GED exam. She said she was proud that all of her students passed.
The US justice system is “very generous” at handing out sentences as “people remain in prison for a long time over the smallest violations. They are just taking their lives away from the girls. No correction is happening, while behind bars.”
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