Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women, Second Edition

Victoria Law. PM Press, $20 (288p) ISBN 978-1-60486-583-7
Law, cofounder of Books-Through-Bars-NYC, documents life for female prisoners, highlighting their refusal to "passively accept their conditions of confinement." Editor of a 'zine for female inmates, Law's empathy for the women she documents and her distrust of the penal system bursts from every page. Her focus here is not on individual crimes, but the system itself: its history, structure, and the prisoners' struggle to serve their time in safe, humane conditions. Drawing from academic writing, personal correspondence, and interviews with incarcerated women, Law argues that although "[w]omen's resistance often lacks the glamour and excitement of the prison riots and work strikes for which male prisoners are known", it does exist. Inmates share their knowledge and miniscule wages with needy prisoners, petition for better medical care, file reports on sexual abuse by guards and create their own newsletters in spite of disenfranchisement. They face reprisals at every turn, including harassment by staff, unexpected prison transfers, placement in segregation, and delays in parole. This second edition adds more recent documentation of resistance at women's prisons, as well as a section focusing on transgender and gender variant prisoners. Law's documentation of prison conditions is distressing, but the stories of resistance are hopeful. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/21/2013
Release date: 10/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
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