Stripped: The Search for Human Rights in US Women’s Prisons

Though its pews were packed, the courtroom was silent as a sanctuary. Most onlookers who filed into Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, Washington, on January 25, 2013, were residents of nearby Gig Harbor, a community shaken by a shocking crime, here for the final act: the sentencing.

Gig Harbor, Washington

In the front row, Kay Nelson watched nervously as her sister, Karen Lofgren, the defendant, prepared to make her final statement. The sisters lived two streets apart. Nelson’s children were like older siblings to Lofgren’s two daughters, who were just 6 and 9 years old. Conservative and Christian, Nelson had always been an advocate for tougher crime laws, and until her sister landed in Lady Justice’s crosshairs, she could have never fathomed praying for a judge in criminal court to show mercy on her behalf.

(L-R) Kay Nelson and Laurie Dawson outside the Washington Correctional Facility for Women.

Lofgren’s husband, Todd Hardin, was on the far side of the room. He opened the hearing with an impassioned speech. “Since I learned of Karen Lofgren’s plot to hire someone to murder me, there is not one day I have let my guard down,” he said. “The impact of her actions have been immeasurable. I am now a single parent who lives with the fear of Karen Lofgren — that Karen Lofgren wants me dead and have my children be fatherless.”

Read the full story by Adam Skolnick on Longreads.