Jessica Kent is a prison reform, mental health and substance use recovery advocate whose experience made her want to protect other women and inmates from enduring similar traumas. “I want to be a voice for women in prison and felons in general. And those that struggle with mental health and addiction,” Kent told In The Know.
At 23 years old, Kent was incarcerated on drug and gun-related charges in Arkansas. Shortly after her arrest, Kent discovered she was pregnant. Though she was still struggling with substance use disorder, she was given very little support in prison. “I was denied access to clean water,” she explained. “I was denied access to prenatal vitamins, and I had very little help when it came to the psychology and the mental health surrounding my addiction.”
When Kent gave birth in prison at 24 years old, the process was painful, both physically and mentally. Shortly after her daughter was born, Jessica was chained to the bed, that is a security measure that prisons have to enforce no matter what is happening. Because she was chained to her hospital bed, Kent says she could not walk around and heal properly. Kent also mentioned that the physical mistreatment of hers and other inmates was also very challenging because just having a baby in prison is traumatic enough. But to be denied access to mental health treatment, to be told you cannot get out of this bed and to be chained to a bed while you’re holding a newborn baby caused PTSD for Kent. Kent said she reached her “breaking point” two days after her daughter was born. The child was taken from her arms, placed in foster care and there was still no mental health support provided for Kent.
Kent found herself literally unable to speak. But a few weeks later, the mother found the will to keep going. Kent started to read self-help books. She began organizing other mothers and women in prison. She heard their stories and realized she wasn’t alone. The fight wasn’t just about getting her daughter back, it was about helping other women who had suffered. “I realized once I regained custody, there’s so many people that I need to help,” she explained. “I now have my bachelor’s degree in correctional program support services.” When she was released in 2013, Kent was able to recover from her substance use disorder, regain custody of her daughter and start a new life. While the activist said she believes her incarceration was warranted, she hopes to make the system more humane and supportive of mental health issues.
After her prison life Jessica fully recovered and decided to appear on social media platforms. Kent has a YouTube channel, which was created back on September 3, 2015. As of now her channel has over 658k subscribers. On her channel Jessica covers literally everything related to prison life, she answers questions, tells stories and shares her experience about her addiction and life. Jessica also has a second YouTube channel related especially to her vlogs. Her channel is Jessica Kent Vlogs, where she uploads beauty related videos, funny ones, challenges and many other quite interesting content. As of February 2022 the channel has over 82K subscribers.
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