Can't Catch a Break: Gender, Jail, Drugs, and the Limits of Personal Responsibility

Susan Starr Sered and Maureen Norton-Hawk. Univ. of California, $29.95 trade paper (222p) ISBN 978-0-520-28279-7
In this passionate, deeply researched study, Suffolk University sociologists Sered and Norton-Hawk argue that prisons have "become the way that America deals with human suffering," especially the suffering of women, who are being incarcerated at ever higher numbers. The authors, who closely studied 47 formerly incarcerated women in the Boston area for 5 years, examine both how women land in prison and how fragile their lives are after release. They discuss the inarguable connections between being abused and getting arrested. Reaganomics and welfare reform, Sered and Norton-Hawk argue, have had disastrous consequences for these women, both before and after incarceration. In particular, lack of stable housing makes women who have been imprisoned more dependent on men. In the study's most original chapter, the authors argue that the therapeutic and mental health services available to the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, rather than directing attention to how society has stacked the deck against marginal women and suggesting political solutions, teach that people's problems are the result of their own unhealed trauma. This compelling and important book deserves to be widely read. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/08/2014
Release date: 09/01/2014
Hardcover - 216 pages - 978-0-520-28278-0
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