cover image Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time

Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time

Susan Madden Lankford. Humane Exposures Publishing, $49.95 (281pp) ISBN 978-0-9792366-1-7

Through photographs, interviews, statistics and other exhaustive research, photographer and first-time author Lankford captures from all angles the experience of women inmates confined to a typical jail in San Diego County. Interviews with jail officials, from deputies to counselors to directors, reveal exhausted, often jaded individuals who lack the resources to do their jobs properly; one deputy says that ""98 percent of inmates have drug histories,"" but funding levels barely keep inmates in food and housing, much less rehab programs. As such, California's ""three strikes"" law sends women to jail for life without ever offering them a chance at getting clean. Kristina Edwards came to jail pregnant on charges ranging from kidnapping to attempted murder, crimes she claimed she was too high to recall even being involved with; Lankford follows her progress, like other inmates', with care and compassion. Delivering her baby chained to a hospital bed, Edwards becomes a symbol of the cycle in which she's trapped, a fate often presaged by parental abandonment and neglect. Informative, frank, relentless and disturbing, the book's strong voices and stark format-black and white photos, transcribed Q&As, pull-quotes from subjects and experts-are completely absorbing, raising important questions about why women end up in jail and, too often, keep coming back.