Inside a Maximum Security Women's Prison

ByABC News
November 4, 2004, 3:50 PM

Nov. 4, 2004 -- -- The Metro State Prison for Women in Atlanta is becoming home to a new kind of female criminal -- one more likely to be incarcerated for a violent crime than women in years past.

The maximum security facility is home to some of the roughest female prisoners in Georgia, and behind its walls is a unique, self-contained world with a culture of its own.

It is a culture of sometimes ingenious, sometimes unusual behavior, accompanied by constant fear and bouts of occasional violence.

Primetime Live's Diane Sawyer spent a day and a night inside the prison wearing a prison uniform to witness a culture that is very different from everyday society.

One of the areas of human experience most affected by prison is relationships. Kept apart from men for years at a stretch, the women of Metro -- like other jails -- have evolved a different approach to romance and family.

The hierarchy of desire in prison goes like this: In a world where women develop lesbian relationships, the most desirable partners are the ones that are most masculine. They're called "studs". The others are coded "femmes."

Much of the conflict in female prison is over sex. Ninety percent of the inmates say they have had sex with another woman while in prison.

Unlike in male prisons where sex is used as a tool of violence and intimidation, inmates and guards say the sex in female prisons tends not to be coercive. Instead, a lot of the violence in Metro is about jealousy or possessiveness.

The problem is, "there's only so many 'studs'," said Bridget Hash, a 21-year-old serving time for burglary. In her short hair and baggy clothes, she identifies herself as a lesbian -- and a stud.

One of Metro's most popular studs is a muscular, 6-foot, 2-inch woman named Shanterelle, who lives in "F" dorm -- one of the more dangerous buildings, where Metro's "problem children" are held.

They are the ones who have many disciplinary problems, problems with anger management and violence. Shanterelle has many suitors, who lavish her with presents like tennis shoes and radios.