“Did you see no potential in me?”: The Story of Women Serving Long Sentences in Prison

Kathy Boudin

in Interrupted Life

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780520252493
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944565 | DOI:
“Did you see no potential in me?”: The Story of Women Serving Long Sentences in Prison

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The enormous expansion of prisons and the high recidivism rates are raising questions about mass incarceration as a solution to social problems. Among the rising group of women in prison, approximately 20 percent have been convicted of violent crimes. Race and class and disintegrating urban neighborhoods intertwine to become the defining elements of who ends up in prison: In New York State, 50 percent of the women in prison are black, 27 percent are Latina, and 25 percent are white. As a result of enormous efforts by women to draw attention to the issue of battered women, a public consciousness exists about women who have been victims of domestic violence. This chapter reviews the reasons for the increasing number of women prisoners and for their long sentences, despite the tiny number of recidivists among this population. It argues that the long sentences, the parole denials, the many ways of rendering invisible or dehumanizing women in prison who have committed violent crimes offer another window into the criminal justice system.

Keywords: mass incarceration; long sentences; violent crimes; women prisoners; race; parole denials; criminal justice system; class; domestic violence

Chapter.  3177 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality

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