The D.C. Parole Board released a consultant's report by Mary Treadwell yesterday in which the former federal inmate called for more useful services and programs for women prisoners from the District, comparing their lot to "a barren and sorrowful wasteland" with little in the way of help during and after incarceration.
Drawing from previous studies, prison visits and interviews with more than 50 people, including convicted cocaine dealer Karen K. Johnson, Treadwell made recommendations for improving the treatment of the city's female inmates, about half of whom are housed at federal facilities in Alderson and Morgantown, W.Va., and in three other states.
"The District of Columbia female code offender is hidden behind a wall of myth, smokescreen and sexual discrimination," Treadwell said in the preface to her report, which assessed the needs of the city's inmate population. She said women inmates are often the victim of sex discrimination when corrections authorities set up programs for them, yet "are notoriously passive in availing themselves of administrative and legal channels to correct inequities."
Treadwell spent 18 months in prison after a 1983 conviction for defrauding the federal government and low-income tenants. In March she was hired by the Parole Board for 90 days to do the study, and this month the parole board announced that Treadwell would be staying on in her $27,747 job for at least a year to help implement her report's findings.
In addition to Johnson, now a trainer and job counselor with Liberation of Ex-Offenders Through Employment, an organization that helps develop jobs for former inmates, Treadwell interviewed current and past members of the D.C. Council, heads of several District government agencies and numerous correctional authorities and prison reform advocates.
Treadwell is the former wife of Mayor Marion Barry. Johnson once had what a Barry aide called a "personal relationship" with the mayor, and is a central figure in a continuing federal investigation of city government contracting. Barry has called his relationship with Johnson "nonintimate."
Treadwell's report specifically looked at facilities and services for female offenders from the District, which does not have a women's prison. Female inmates serving sentences of less than one year are confined in the D.C. Jail. Those with longer sentences or who, such as Treadwell, have been convicted of federal crimes, are sent to federal institutions, primarily Alderson.
Successful incarceration, Treadwell said, must provide correctional treatment and services that "assist the offender in breaking the cycle of repeated criminal behavior." Part of breaking that cycle, she said, is helping women reenter society by job training.
Treadwell said the District should assign a full-time staff liaison with District inmates in federal facilities. She said the District should pay for tuition and books for women enrolling in college-level courses at federal institutions.
Also, she said the city should help provide low-cost monthly transportation for friends and relatives to visit Alderson inmates.
Among other recommendations for women: weekly support counseling for parolees; compiling data on offender and parolee needs; a study of health services, parent support training and crisis intervention needs of female offenders; and an adequate supply of appropriate clothing, basic hygiene items and toilet articles.