Wise Women: Critical Citizenship in a Women’s Prison

Tanya Erzen

in Interrupted Life

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780520252493
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944565 | DOI:
Wise Women: Critical Citizenship in a Women’s Prison

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During the first day of a college history class entitled “Women, Politics, and Citizenship” at the Bayview Correctional Facility in New York City, the nine women in the class wrote down their definitions of citizenship and politics. The women were taking college courses because they had graduated from every other prison program available to them. Instead of relying on the redemption narrative central to their dealings with the parole board, in which they had to express remorse for their crimes and prove that they had become someone else, or on the language of the state they heard all around them, they found ways to situate their lives within a different language of citizenship and power, surveillance, and vulnerability. The goal of the college program is “to create opportunities for women prisoners in New York City to successfully reenter the community by offering a rigorous college curriculum and transitional academic counseling.” Education, especially college education, in the space of the prison at this moment in history is a radical and highly fraught endeavor.

Keywords: Bayview Correctional Facility; New York City; women prisoners; education; citizenship; politics; power; surveillance; vulnerability

Chapter.  2154 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality

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