Razor Wire Women: Prisoners, Activists, Scholars, and Artists

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Offering nuanced portraits of women’s lives inside razor wire and prison walls, Razor Wire Women puts incarcerated women in dialogue with scholars, artists, educators and activists who live outside of prisons but work on issues connected to the prison industrial complex. Women make up the fastest-growing group of the U.S. prison population, yet prison scholarship largely overlooks the struggles of incarcerated women, and their voices are often silenced both in and out of the prison infrastructure. From the vantage points of those both inside and outside of prisons, this collection of essays and art illuminates many of the distinct experiences and concerns of incarcerated women, including those of girls in prison, abuse and rape, the policing of women, incarcerated motherhood, mental health issues in prisons, incarcerated women’s artistic and cultural production, and prisons’ impact on families, health, and sexuality. Combining the transcendence, hope and clarity of art with powerful analytical and conceptual tools, Razor Wire Women reveals the gendered dimensions of the incarceration now experienced by a growing number of women in the U.S.
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About the author

Jodie Michelle Lawston is Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at California State University San Marcos and the author of Sisters Outside: Radical Activists Working for Women Prisoners, also published by SUNY Press.

Ashley E. Lucas is Assistant Professor of Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina and the author and performer of the play Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass.

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Additional Information

SUNY Press
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Published on
Apr 11, 2011
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Language Arts & Disciplines / Composition & Creative Writing
Poetry / General
Social Science / Criminology
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Historically, women have been an afterthought in criminal justice
policymaking and the criminological enterprise. The study of criminology
has largely been the study of criminal men, because women commit less
crime than men. More recently, criminologists have paid increased
attention to the population of female offenders, partly because of their
growing numbers and partly because of the tens of thousands of children
affected by having their mothers in prison or on supervised release.
The recent attention, however, has not necessarily been a good thing for
women, who are much more likely to be formally prosecuted and
incarcerated today than in decades past. This policy shift has come
about partly because of misinformed policies implemented to “help”
women, and partly because of shifts in theorists’ beliefs and public
perceptions that women and men are similar in their criminal motivations
and should, therefore, be treated similarly. The controversy
surrounding this perception is the focus of this book. To better
comprehend the challenges facing women in the criminal justice system,
the author (a winner of the Bruce Smith Sr. Award from the Academy of
Criminal Justice Sciences) employs research findings and statistics to:
describe the prevalence and patterns of women’s crimes; review
criminological theories, specifically examining how well they explain
female criminality; understand female juvenile offenders, reviewing
crime rates, theories relating to female delinquency, and
detention-related issues; look inside the women’s prison to better
understand female prisoners and their world; examine classification and
programming issues—particularly the impact of gender-specific
programming; and explore the problems experienced by women upon release
and the related issue of women’s recidivism.
Across America today gated communities sprawl out from urban centers, employers enforce mandatory drug testing, and schools screen students with metal detectors. Social problems ranging from welfare dependency to educational inequality have been reconceptualized as crimes, with an attendant focus on assigning fault and imposing consequences. Even before the recent terrorist attacks, non-citizen residents had become subject to an increasingly harsh regime of detention and deportation, and prospective employees subjected to background checks. How and when did our everyday world become dominated by fear, every citizen treated as a potential criminal? In this startlingly original work, Jonathan Simon traces this pattern back to the collapse of the New Deal approach to governing during the 1960s when declining confidence in expert-guided government policies sent political leaders searching for new models of governance. The War on Crime offered a ready solution to their problem: politicians set agendas by drawing analogies to crime and redefined the ideal citizen as a crime victim, one whose vulnerabilities opened the door to overweening government intervention. By the 1980s, this transformation of the core powers of government had spilled over into the institutions that govern daily life. Soon our schools, our families, our workplaces, and our residential communities were being governed through crime. This powerful work concludes with a call for passive citizens to become engaged partners in the management of risk and the treatment of social ills. Only by coming together to produce security, can we free ourselves from a logic of domination by others, and from the fear that currently rules our everyday life.
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