Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women in Prison

Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women in Prison

Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women in Prison

Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women in Prison

Synopsis

The rate of women entering prison has increased nearly 400 percent since 1980, with African American women constituting the largest percentage of this population. However, despite their extremely disproportional representation in correctional institutions, little attention has been paid to their experiences within the criminal justice system.

Inner Lives provides readers the rare opportunity to intimately connect with African American women prisoners. By presenting the women's stories in their own voices, Paula C. Johnson captures the reality of those who are in the system, and those who are working to help them. Johnson offers a nuanced and compelling portrait of this fastest-growing prison population by blending legal history, ethnography, sociology, and criminology. These striking and vivid narratives are accompanied by equally compelling arguments by Johnson on how to reform our nation's laws and social policies, in order to eradicate existing inequalities. Her thorough and insightful analysis of the historical and legal background of contemporary criminal law doctrine, sentencing theories, and correctional policies sets the stage for understanding the current system.

Excerpt

Joyce A. Logan

WHEN I WAS ASKED to write the foreword to Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women in Prison, I was humbled and overwhelmed by the request. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would meet and have an opportunity to work with and assist a law professor in such an endeavor as a book about African American women in prison. Although I was a “writ writer” in prison, even obtaining a reversal of a conviction for a fellow inmate, as I began writing this introduction I worried that my words would not be adequate for such a distinguished publication. Part of my resolve since my release, however, has been to try to live up to the expectations and encouragement of newfound friends and acquaintances. Professor Paula Johnson has motivated me to reach even higher.

All of us who are featured in the pages of this book have had our lives transformed because of our incarceration, our removal from society. We were taken from our families, friends, and communities and placed in environments that were strained and artificial. But, as the stories contained in Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women in Prison illustrate, we remain your daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, and nieces. We have been separated, but we are not gone. We may be distant, but we are a part of you. We may be absent, but we are very much present.

This book poignantly conveys this message from African American female prisoners and former prisoners. Being locked up does not eliminate our need to believe that we have something to offer and contribute . . .

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