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COVID-19 Deaths Of Female Prisoners Speak Volumes About The Prison System

Andrea Circle Bear was eight months pregnant and serving a two-year sentence for a drug charge when she became the first female federal prisoner to die from the coronavirus. Her death sparked questions and conversation about what placed her in prison and why she was held there under the circumstances. 

Though incarcerated women make up a small number of the coronavirus deaths in U.S. prisons, their stories illuminate the unique problems women face in prison and how the system punishes women and their families differently from their male counterparts.

Host Frank Stasio talks with two reporters from The Marshall Project about their reporting on four women who died from the coronavirus in prison. In their investigation, the reporters noted patterns among the women’s narratives, including children left behind, drug addiction and convictions as accomplices to crimes committed by men. Durham-based Joseph Neff and Dallas-based Cary Aspinwall share their reporting on the women’s stories and the trends they reveal about female incarceration.

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Kaia Findlay is the lead producer of Embodied, WUNC's weekly podcast and radio show about sex, relationships and health. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.