A woman in Georgia who says she was abused as a child in a Georgia prison is speaking out about the trauma she endured as a teenager.
“I’m a grown woman,” said Kristi Ann Williams, who was in her early 20s when she was placed in a juvenile prison in 2002.
“I know what it’s like to be abused and neglected and abused, and I know what happened to me.”
Williams, who has written a memoir about her experiences, said she was sent to a facility for children and teenagers in 2006.
She said the facility in Atlanta was supposed to be an institution of rehabilitation and was used to send children to private schools.
She says she wasn’t even allowed to speak with her parents or siblings.
“I was being sent there because I was a bad kid, and they were going to take my mom away,” she said.
“My mom was in jail for two years and she didn’t have a job.
So, my mom had to come out here.”
Williams said she started going to a different facility where she was told that if she had any problems she would be transferred to the adult facility.
She said she never got to speak to her mother or siblings, but her mother, who is now 74, did get to see her in prison.
“She said, ‘Look, I’m not going to let you out of my sight because I know you are not what you say you are,'” she said, adding that her mother’s relationship with her mother was “bad” and she wanted her out of there.
“I did not know what to say.
I was still in denial.
I had to keep it bottled up,” she added.
Williams’ story is not unique.
The American Civil Liberties Union says that more than 4,000 people, including children, were sent to prison facilities across the country in 2016, up from a little more than 200 in 2015.
In Georgia, that number is expected to rise to more than 1,400 by 2020.
The ACLU says the practice is often justified on the grounds that children who end up in facilities are mentally ill, but the reality is that children often suffer as a result of the trauma that they experience.
Williams, a retired nurse, said the experience made her think about what she and other children in her neighborhood have experienced.
“It made me think about my life, about what happened, about my family and about the kids I loved, and about what it would be like to go back to school and be a normal person again,” she told WSB-TV.
“And that’s when I started thinking, ‘I know I’m different, but I don’t think I could go back and be like that,'” she added, “so I’m coming forward now to say that I am different and I am fighting for justice.”
In February, Williams was sentenced to serve more than two years in prison for a crime that had never been prosecuted in Georgia, according to a state official.
Williams was also placed on parole, but she is not allowed to contact her family.
She was released in April and is scheduled to be released on Friday.