Offending Women: Power, Punishment, and the Regulation of Desire

Offending Women: Power, Punishment, and the Regulation of Desire

Offending Women: Power, Punishment, and the Regulation of Desire

Offending Women: Power, Punishment, and the Regulation of Desire

Synopsis

Offending Women is an eye-opening journey into the lived reality of prison for women in the United States today. Lynne Haney looks at incarcerated mothers, housed together with their children, who are serving terms in alternative, community-based prisons-a type of facility that is becoming increasingly widespread. Incorporating vivid, sometimes shocking observations of daily life, she probes the dynamics of power over women's minds and bodies that play out in two such institutions in California. She finds that these "alternative" prisons, contrary to their aims, often end up disempowering women, transforming their social vulnerabilities into personal pathologies, and pushing them into a state of disentitlement. Uncovering the complex gendered underpinning of methods of control and intervention used in the criminal justice system today, Offending Women links that system to broader discussions on contemporary government and state power, asks why these strategies have arisen at this particular moment in time, and considers what forms of citizenship they have given rise to.

Excerpt

“This is a very different kind of place,” explained the director of Alliance, a group home for incarcerated teen mothers. It was a bright morning in the winter of 1992, and Marlene was taking me on my first tour of the facility. “It’s not like the others you’ve seen,” she continued. “Those places don’t give women what they need to lead productive lives. They just trap them in the system. We step in to get them out.” As Marlene spoke, I looked around and was struck by what I saw. Indeed, it bore little resemblance to other criminal-justice institutions: in place of the small, cold cells of juvenile hall were nicely decorated bedrooms; instead of juvie’s large, sterile cafeteria there was an open, well-stocked kitchen; and rather than the hall’s barren recreation room there was a living room with sofas, a stereo, and a television set. It almost felt homey.

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