UC Press Authors at the LA Times Book Festival

We’re excited to announce that three UC Press authors will be featured on panels at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend.

Marcus Anthony Hunter, co-author of Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life, will serve as moderator on the panel History: The Problem of Slavery’s Intransigent Legacy.”

“History: The Problem of Slavery’s Intransigent Legacy” (Conversation 2011)
Sunday April 22, 2018
10:30am – 11:30am
Hancock Foundation, Signing Area 1
Politics & History

Marcus Anthony Hunter is Chair of the Department of African American Studies, Associate Professor of Sociology, and he holds the Scott Waugh Endowed Chair in the Division of the Social Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Black Citymakers: How the Philadelphia Negro Changed Urban America and the president of the Association of Black Sociologists.

Read more from Marcus and co-author Zandria Robinson on their thoughts on why Los Angeles is still part of The South and how Black lives are affected by current policies today.

Also on Sunday, The Rise of Extremism will feature Khaled Beydoun (American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear) and Michael Kimmel (Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremism) in a discussion on extremist ideology and what attracts individuals to being radicalized.

 

“The Rise of Extremism” (Conversation 2072)
Sunday April 22, 2018
12:30pm – 1:30pm

Ronald Tutor Campus Center, Signing Area 3

Three authors will discuss the attraction and impact of extremist ideologies on the panel “The Rise of Extremism” (Sun. Apr. 22, 12:30 p.m.), moderated by The Times’ Matt Pearce.

Professor Khaled A. Beydoun, author of “American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear” will be joined by sociologist Michael Kimmel, whose new book “Healing from Hate” looks at what causes young men to join — and also leave — American neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups. The third author on their panel is Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad, among those traveling farthest to attend the festival, whose riveting new book examines how two generations flee from and return to extremism: “Two Sisters: A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey into the Syrian Jihad.”

Khaled A. Beydoun is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and Senior Affiliated Faculty at the University of California–Berkeley Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project. A critical race theorist, he examines Islamophobia, the war on terror, and the salience of race and racism in American law. His scholarship has appeared in top law journals, including the California Law Review, Columbia Law Review, and Harvard Civil Rights–Civil Liberties Law Review. In addition, he is an active public intellectual and advocate whose commentary has been featured in the New York Times and Washington Post as well as on the BBC, Al Jazeera English, ESPN, and more. He is a native of Detroit and has been named the 2017 American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Advocate of the Year and the Arab American Association of New York’s 2017 Community Champion of the Year.

Read more on Khaled’s thoughts on the deeply-ingrained history of Islamophobia in America on the UC Press Blog.

Michael Kimmel is one of the world’s leading experts on men and masculinities. He is the SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University and the author of Manhood in America, Angry White Men, The Politics of Manhood, The Gendered Society, and Guyland. With funding from the MacArthur Foundation, he founded the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook in 2013.

Check out Michael’s #HealingFromHate series on the UC Press Blog.

 


How Do You Know It’s What You Did That Made the Difference?

This blog post is reposted courtesy of the authors during the American Association of Geographers conferenceTo learn more, about Risk Terrain Modeling, please visit http://www.riskterrainmodeling.com/. #AAG2018

By Joel M. Caplan and Leslie W. Kennedy, authors of Risk Terrain Modeling and, with Eric L. Piza, Risk-Based Policing

How do police know it’s what they did that made the difference? This is a great question, and frequently asked by crime analysts learning about Risk Terrain Modeling (RTM). One way to determine the impact of law enforcement and policing actions at high-risk places is to decide on the response strategy in advance of implementation, intentionally focusing policing actions on one (or more) of the risk factors. Specifically state this intent from the get-go. The factors that could be focused on will be identified by the risk terrain model. Then compare new risk terrain models to the older ones.

For example, if “convenience stores” were a top risk factor for motor vehicle thefts, a risk reduction strategy might be to increase patrols around convenience stores located in high-risk areas; to put sign-in sheets in the stores for officers to engage more with the managers while showing a police presence; or to display informational posters on store windows reminding customers: “Turn off car. Take keys. Lock doors. Prevent theft.” There are more and probably better examples than this. But hopefully you get the idea.

Then, after deploying that risk reduction strategy for a period of time (e.g., 1 month), run a new risk terrain model and compare the Relative Risk Value (RRV) of the before-and-after results for the targeted risk factor. If the factor that you intentionally focused on has a lower RRV after the intervention compared to what it had before your intervention activities, then you may have had an effect. If crime also went down during the intervention time period, then you may have prevented crimes by mitigating the risk factor. Both of these things — risk reduction and crime prevention — could be credited to the police activities. If the risk factor (e.g., convenience stores) was present in the risk terrain model before the intervention and wasn’t present in the model after the intervention, then that could mean you completely mitigated the risk factor’s spatial influence based on your actions. It’s no longer a crime attractor/generator. Now you can deal with any new crime dynamics that exist, which you know well based on the newly updated risk terrain model that serves as your next month’s forecast and intel for risk reduction strategies and deployments.

 


Leslie W. Kennedy is University Professor of Criminal Justice and Director of the Rutgers Center on Public Security. Joel M. Caplan is Associate Professor at Rutgers University, School of Criminal Justice and Deputy Director of the Rutgers Center on Public Security. He has professional experience as a police officer, 9-1-1 dispatcher, and Emergency Medical Technician. Eric L. Piza is Associate Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. Prior to joining academia, he served as the Geographic Information Systems Specialist for the Newark, NJ Police Department.


When Women Don’t Count: Pregnant People Behind Bars

As part of Women History Month, we share issues that affect women in all walks of life, including pregnant women in prison. #WHM #WomensHistoryMonth

By Carolyn Sufrin, author of Jailcare: Finding the Safety Net for Women behind Bars

In recent months, NPR and Propublica, along with advocacy organizations like the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and the National Birth Equity Collaborative, have drawn attention to the alarmingly high rates of and profound racial disparities in maternal mortality in the U.S. Among some of the actions being demanded in response is legislation to require collection and review of maternal mortality data across local and state jurisdictions across the country. These overdue calls to recognize and intervene on the racially grounded maternal mortality crisis in this country are part of that classic feminist project of ‘consciousness raising,’ and infused with the structural indictment provided by the reproductive justice framework.

But even within this essential project, there is one group whose pregnancy needs and experiences have been elided: pregnant people behind bars in the U.S. They do not count. While no comprehensive or updated data on how many pregnant this is or what happens to these pregnancies exist, we know that most incarcerated women in the U.S. are of childbearing age, have had limited access to contraception pre-incarceration and are already mothers; some of them will enter jail or prison pregnant. I describe the experiences of some of these pregnant incarcerated people in my book, Jailcare, and the contradictory everyday realities of motherhood and health care behind bars in the age of mass incarceration.

When pregnant incarcerated people don’t count, when there is no data about them, when there is minimal attention to the ways jails and prisons control their access to safe motherhood, then anything can happen. They can be denied their legal right to abortion, deprived of access to appropriate prenatal care, forced to detox from opiates despite known medical risks, and forced to give birth in chains. These degradations and unsafe conditions are a sign for how our society neglects our most vulnerable members—who, in this case, are disproportionately women of color. They are a bellwether for the systematic disregard of the reproductive well-being of all women.

Read more from Carolyn regarding why jail can become a safety net for pregnant women and practical strategies that we can employ to shift the role of jails in addressing this social concern. 


Carolyn Sufrin is a medical anthropologist and an obstetrician-gynecologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.


Congratulations to the Lambda Literary Awards Finalists

We’re pleased to announce that After Silence by Avram Finkelstein, Lavender and Red by Emily K. Hobson, and Punishing Disease by Trevor Hoppe have all been selected as finalists of the 30th Annual Lambda Literary Awards, awarded by the nation’s oldest and largest literary arts organization advancing LGBTQ literature.

After Silence: A History of AIDS through Its Images
By Avram Finkelstein
LGBTQ Nonfiction Finalist

A protest poster of a pink triangle with the words “Silence = Death” became one of the most iconic and lasting images that would come to symbolize a movement. Cofounder of the collective Silence = Death and member of the art collective Gran Fury, Avram Finkelstein tells the story of how his work and other protest artwork associated with the early years of the pandemic were created, many of which still resonate today.

 

Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left
By Emily K. Hobson
LGBTQ Studies Finalist

Lavender and Red recounts a history of queer radicals who understood their sexual liberation as intertwined with solidarity against imperialism, war, and racism. Bringing together archival research, oral histories, and vibrant images, Emily K. Hobson rediscovers the radical queer past for a generation of activists today.

 

 

Punishing Disease: HIV and the Criminalization of Sickness
By Trevor Hoppe
LGBTQ Studies Finalist

Punishing Disease looks at how HIV transformed from sickness to badness in criminal law and investigates  consequences of inflicting penalties on people living with disease. Now that the door to criminalizing sickness is open, what other ailments will follow? With moves in state legislatures to extend HIV-specific criminal laws to include diseases such as hepatitis and meningitis, the question is more than academic.

The finalists were chosen from nearly 1,000 submissions and over 300 publishers. “Celebrating our 30th year of Lambda Literary Award finalists is to recognize that this organization has been at the center of contemporary queer literature for decades,” said Lambda Literary Executive Director Tony Valenzuela. “This year is no different with another stellar list of authors demonstrating through their work that LGBTQ books tell richly textured stories about who we are in all our incredible diversity.” The winners will be announced at a gala ceremony on Monday, June 4th in New York City.

Many congratulations to Avram, Emily, and Trevor and the rest of this year’s Lambda Literary Award finalists!


Resilience and Growth Following Adversity

By Susan L. Miller, author of Journeys: Resilience and Growth for Survivors of Intimate Partner Abuse

More than one in three women in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner or former partner in their lifetime. What goes on behind closed doors often remains a secret. Yet, spurred on by the courage and resilience exemplified by victims of gender-based violence and harassment in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, in addition to the national debate on gun control following yet another school shooting in Parkland, FL, survivors of intimate partner violence and abuse (IPV/A) foresee a platform for them too to join the conversation. #IPV

Fortunately, many abused women reach out for help when they face a crisis, such as securing shelter, obtaining help with legal issues, and connecting with victim service advocates. But often the very people and institutions turned to in a crisis, such as friends and family, the police, faith communities, and the courts, do not provide the assistance or emotional support needed. Abused women face issues similar to women speaking out in the #MeToo movement, such as victim-blaming, retaliation, and threats, yet the stigma of being abused by a loved one, rather than an employer, silences many victims. Many in our nation are demanding a new strategy for reducing gun violence, and this issue is relevant for IPV/A: women are at high risk for domestic homicide; every day, on average, three or more women are killed by their husbands or partners. Guns make situations far more dangerous, increasing homicide risk by 500% (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence).

Research shows that post-traumatic growth, resilience, and empowerment can flourish following adversity. My research with long-term survivors of IPV/A reveals that though trauma and recovery shaped their lives, victimization was not the center­piece of their identities. This issue of long-term survivorship merits serious attention. Although there is a lot of research on crisis and short-term needs, we know very little about how long-term survivors transform or incorporate their “victim” identities and lives while encountering what sociologists refer to as social structural constraints (such as poverty or lack of resources that may affect help-seeking behavior, as well as housing and employment options) and legal and criminal justice obstacles. The challenges abound even for those victims/survivors most likely to have a strong sense of personal efficacy, as well as access to a range of emotional and instrumental support from serv­ice providers, family, and friends. Moving from being controlled by an abu­sive partner or ex-partner toward a life where one is in control is an accom­plishment from which other abused women can learn and find inspiration.

As apparent in the political machinations of the current political administration where former White House staffer Rob Porter left amidst accusations of domestic violence by two ex-wives, and the exposure of pervasive abuse by the #MeToo movement, our culture still tolerates misogyny, offering the excuse that “boys will be boys” and claiming that women are just too sensitive, with the result that bullies and abusers often enjoy impunity. Measures to prevent and intervene in abusive situations and to sustain women after they leave are vital for addressing gender-based violence. In joining the conversation, survivors of IPV/A help inform victim-centered policies to guide our efforts of empowerment for all victims/survivors. Our collective expectations to live in a civil and just society mandate greater attention to changing gendered social norms and the unequal distribution of power.


Susan L. Miller is Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware. She is the author of After the Crime: The Power of Restorative Justice Dialogues Between Victims and Violent Offenders, and Victims as Offenders: The Paradox of Women’s Violence in Relationships. 


In Germany, the Role of Family in Recruiting Members into Neo-Nazi Groups

This is the third installment in the #HealingFromHate blog series. Stay tuned for future blog posts in the series. And follow along on Twitter, #HealingFromHate.


In Germany, members of violent extremist groups are more often than not recruited when their family ties are severed in some way, causing young German men to find a sense of family elsewhere. In Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremism, Michael Kimmel, a leading expert on men and masculinities, shares how this occurs:

Since 2001, EXIT Deutschland has handled nearly five hundred cases of young skinheads and neo-Nazis who wanted to jump. Four out of every five were male, the average age was about twenty-six, and virtually all fell within the twenty-five–to–thirty-five range. These are not the post-adolescent Swedes or the long-committed ideologues in the United States [described in chapters 3 and 4 of the book].

Typically, the German youth engage while young, through recruitment either from the streets or, more often, in prisons. German prisons are teeming with immigrants, mostly Turks, and so an apolitical white prisoner soon finds “his people” among some of the harder-core Aryans. The young men enter the movement without much in the way of ideology, but they like the scene, connect to the music, and love the community and camaraderie they experience, especially after being loners for so long. From within the prisons, ironically, they feel for the first time that someone has their back. Many are unemployed, and those who have jobs are wage laborers or craft workers. Bernd Wenger [former East German police officer and founder of EXIT Deutschland] gave me a bit of a profile of them.

To begin with, he was quite certain that all of them had a “break” with their families in some way prior to their drifting into the neo-Nazi scene. Their parents were divorced or they grew up in foster care. Some were abused, one or two sexually. Some knew their sisters were being abused and felt powerless to help. “It’s not so much the abuse, or the broken home. It’s that feeling of injustice being allowed to exist, and that feeling that they are powerless to stop it. They all have felt that powerlessness—and they are absolutely determined never to feel it again.”

That observation, of course, matched my observations of every group I examine in this book. The experience of isolation, of emasculation and humiliation at having been abused or ignored or raped—these feelings compromise one’s sense of self, thus posing a core existential threat, and also, not coincidentally, compromise one’s sense of self as a man, capable of acting with power, autonomy, and purpose. Something essential has been stolen  and some of these guys seek an outlet for it on the streets. Of course, as I’ve said, it is not the case that all abused, ignored, or bullied young boys become neo-Nazi terrorists. There are many other paths that they can and do take. But the fact that virtually all those who drift into extremist politics come from such a background ought to suggest that we pay attention to these family variables.

Especially when those family variables parallel their political observations of society. Their fathers may have lost jobs, had to close the family store, or had the family farm taken away, and such losses often correspond with their observations that society is sinking into a degenerative state of decline and despair. “Almost every one speaks of the atomization of society, which they fear,” Wenger explains. “They want stronger institutions, stronger structures to act as a barrier to this general cultural decline.” They want a wall. They may have been happy to see the Berlin Wall come down, but they surely wouldn’t mind a new one, between “us” and “them.”

EXIT hopes to recommend alternatives to the “family” ties created with the Neo-Nazi groups:

EXIT tries to offer an alternative to that—not an alternative ideology, but an alternative experience. The opportunity to build a community of brothers (and sisters) committed to one another—and committed to staying out of the movement. Committed to helping these guys find ways to feel more masculine by helping them find steady jobs, thereby developing a sense of economic efficacy. Committed to helping them build a masculine identity anchored in their communities and in healthy relationships.

Read the first chapter of Healing from Hate. And see what others are saying about the book.


A Dream Ends

This guest post is published around the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference in New Orleans, occurring February 13-17, 2018. #ACJS2018 #ACJS18

By Michela Soyer, author of A Dream Denied: Incarceration, Recidivism, and Young Minority Men in America 

Jason’s case is at the core of A Dream Denied. He was one of the youngest respondents and unlike other youths I interviewed he was always eager to speak with me. Everyone I met that had worked with him in the Department of Youth Services (DYS) believed that Jason was “a good kid”. After I finished my research he and I kept in touch sporadically and remained Facebook friends. When I spoke to his mother right before I handed in the final manuscript of A Dream Denied, she told me that he was doing well, mostly staying out of trouble. I had also noticed in my Facebook feed that Jason was going to be a father. He was so proud that he decided to make the ultrasound picture of his unborn daughter his new background photo. I thought that becoming father could be a turning point for him. He had always enjoyed taking care of children and maybe this new role would give his life the focus he needed.

… Jason died almost exactly a year ago.

From what I was able to piece together through news items and his Facebook feed, it seemed that the car Jason died in was stolen. His daughter was barely 7 month old when she lost her father.

I expected Jason to struggle. I assumed that he would recidivate, maybe even end up in juvenile prison. In the end however, I wanted to believe that he was going to be ok. When he heard about this death, I realized that even though I titled my book A Dream Denied, I still believed that someone like Jason—a charismatic, energetic, and caring young man—will simply age out of crime and will be able to support himself without dealing drugs or committing robberies. Jason always dreamed big. He wanted to build his own business. Even though he did not know exactly what he wanted to sell, I believed that if anyone could do it, it was Jason who would be able to build a better future for himself. His death is a reminder for myself that even as a qualitative sociologist I am only able to scratch the surface of the extremely complex lives of those I study.

More than other young men I interviewed, Jason struggled with the rigid structure of the Boston Juvenile Justice system. He craved autonomy and I had hoped that once he was able to find a way of expressing himself creatively, he would stabilize his life. Like most of the youths I met during my research for A Dream Denied, Jason was not a hardened criminal. It was easy to imagine that had he grown up under more affluent circumstances, he may simply have struggled with his identity like any teenager. His family would have not had to rely on the juvenile justice system to get social services for their son. Having the financial means to move into a good school district, to pay for engaging after school activities and private counseling services are what separates upper middle class families from Jason’s home. Money cannot insulate anyone from tragedy, yet it affords youths like Jason the opportunity to self-correct without being funneled into the juvenile justice system.

Jason’s death could simply be written off as an individual tragedy. After all, he died in car accident after he had experienced what the press described as a “medical emergency”. Jason’s story however, is more than an individual quest for agency gone wrong. His death signifies that even a fairly well funded juvenile justice system, like the Department of Youth Services in Boston, can only offer temporary solutions to deeply ingrained social problems.


Michaela Soyer is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Hunter College.


Criminologists Answer the Question, “So What?”

This guest post is published around the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference in New Orleans, occurring February 13-17, 2018. #ACJS2018 #ACJS18

By Claire M. Renzetti, series editor for Gender and Justice Series

As criminologists are gathering in New Orleans, LA, this week for the 55th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justices Sciences (ACJS), they will be addressing the proverbial “So what” question that is not infrequently raised by the media, the general public, and certainly, by politicians, when presented with findings from empirical research. The choice of this theme, with the subtheme “What it all means,” by ACJS President Nicole Leeper Piquero (University of Texas at Dallas) is especially timely given, on one hand, opinion polls showing tremendous mistrust of academics by a swath of the public and conservative politicians, and on the other hand, the groundswell of voices documenting hate crimes and sexual abuse in this country. In the current social and political climate, with the country’s President labeling any story that contradicts his personal or political agenda “fake news,” it behooves us to answer the so what question more clearly and vehemently than ever before.

Indeed, criminological research has much to offer in response to the so what question. Consider, for example, the books in the UC Press Gender and Justice Series, which focus explicitly on how the experiences of offending, victimization, and justice are profoundly affected by the intersection of gender inequality with other social inequalities such as race, ethnicity, and social class. Jerry Flores (University of Toronto), in his monograph, Caught Up: Girls, Surveillance, and Wraparound Incarceration, examines the lives of incarcerated young women, particularly Latinas, in southern California. Through painstaking ethnographic research at a detention center, Flores shows the circumstances that led to girls’ arrests, what they experience during incarceration, and what typically happens when they are released. So what? Flores’ study demonstrates how the juvenile justice system, and in particular, the school-to-prison pipeline, are simultaneously gendered, raced and classed, such that both schools and detention centers, rather than cultivating avenues of success and safety for young women, largely ensure instead that they will plunge deeper into the labyrinthian criminal legal system.

Similarly, Barbara Owen (California State University, Fresno), James Wells (Eastern Kentucky University), and Joycelyn Pollock (Texas State University), in their book, In Search of Safety: Confronting Inequality in Women’s Imprisonment, take readers inside an adult women’s correctional facility to show how gendered power relationships, including those with correctional staff, result in violent victimization for incarcerated women for whom such victimization, throughout their lives, has constructed one of the pathways to offending that originally resulted in their arrest. So what? Owen, Wells, and Pollock remind us of the feminist slogan, “Women’s rights are human rights,” and their rigorous research raises policy recommendations for breaking the relationship between victimization and offending for women, which would reduce crime and eventually bring U.S. prisons into compliance with international human rights standards.

These are just two examples of how series authors, through their timely research and authentic writing, are answering the so what question. Their work offers blueprints for social action that fosters equity and refocuses national attention on the foundational elements of justice in our criminal legal system.

See the rest of the Gender and Justice Series titles:


Claire M. Renzetti, Ph.D., is the Judi Conway Patton Endowed Chair for Studies of Violence Against Women, and Professor and Chair of Sociology, at the University of Kentucky.


Meet Our Authors at ACJS 2018

This year’s ACJS meeting in New Orleans from February 13 – 17 includes exciting presentations by some of our authors, highlighting titles that confront the criminal justice crisis and serve as a catalyst for change. #ACJS2018 #ACJS18

Get 40% off of new and notable titles by visiting Booth #402. Or request an exam copy for course adoption consideration.

Walter S. DeKeseredy and Martin D. Schwartz, co authors with Molly Dragiewicz of Abusive Endings: Separation and Divorce Violence against Women

Thursday, 2/15 at 11:00am, Hilton 3rd Floor: Norwich, Gender and Crime: Victims and Responses, “Technology-Assisted Stalking and Image-Based Sexual Abuse on the College Campus: The Role of Negative Peer Support”

Read their thoughts on image-based sexual abuse.

Dean Dabney, coauthor with Richard Tewksbury of Speaking Truth to Power: Confidential Informants and Police Investigations

Friday, 2/16 at 11:00am, Hilton 2nd Floor: Marlborough A, Navigating the Job Market in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Friday, 2/16 at 2:00pm, Hilton 1st Floor: Grand Salon 12, Leadership Partnerships: Dealing with the Shrinking Applicant Pool in Policing/Police Administration and Management

Read their thoughts on why it’s important to link teaching, practice, and research in police intelligence.

Leon Anderson, author of Deviance: Social Constructions and Blurred Boundaries

Friday, 2/16 at 12:30pm, Hilton 3rd Floor: Windsor, Designing Criminal Justice Curriculum, “Integrating Paradigms in Teaching Deviance and Criminology”

Read Leon’s thoughts on sexual assaults occurring on college campuses.

Barbara Owen, coauthor with James Wells and Joycelyn Pollock of In Search of Safety: Confronting Inequality in Women’s Imprisonment

Saturday, 2/16 at 8:00am, Hilton 1st Floor: Grand Salon 19, Comparative Issues in Courts and Corrections, “Research and Hunan Rights: Foreign National Women’s Experience of Imprisonment in Cambodia”

Read their thoughts on why, with #metoo and #timesup, women in prison also need a movement.

 


#MeToo and #TimesUp: Women in Prison Require a Movement Too

This guest post is published around the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference in New Orleans, occurring February 13-17, 2018. #ACJS2018 #ACJS18

By Barbara Owen, co-author of In Search of Safety: Confronting Inequality in Women’s Imprisonment

The #MeToo movement is drawing increasing attention to the range of sexual harassment and abuse across multiple industries. Women (and it is mostly women) are coming forward with allegations against men (and yes, it is mostly men) in the entertainment, media, sports, politics and other high-profile worlds. Each week, more news hits the airwaves about particularly egregious assaults perpetrated by marquee names, many showing a pattern of repeated harassment and assaults over long periods of time. One group of women unlikely to get much media attention are those incarcerated in jails and prisons. Their experiences with predatory staff are unlikely to get the public attention of those with more social and personal capital. These concerns are amplified in a population of imprisoned women who are often labeled as underserving and unsympathetic victims, suggesting that some are not worthy of the same level of attention and support given to those on the outside.

There are disquieting similarities as women inside and out report experiences with sexual harassment and assault: women are afraid to come forward and make claims against the more powerful people who harm them; they fear not being believed and suffering the consequences for such claims; and there is often little evidence of the event, further throwing their reports into disrepute.

As Lovisa Stannow, my friend and colleague from Just Detention International, a human rights organization focused on ending such assaults within custodial environments, stated in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times:

But in this moment of heightened awareness of sexual violence and women’s safety, we need to remember those survivors who cannot tell their stories. Social media campaigns are now being used to rebuke sexism and have sent powerful ripples across the media and entertainment industries. But incarcerated women live in a world without hashtags and Facebook.

Most troubling to me is the ways in which industries and prison systems can be complicit in allowing such assaults to occur in these shadows. We echo the claims of the #TimesUp movement in calling for increased attention to the experiences of women in chains. While the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act provides a framework for protecting women (and men) who have been assaulted by staff while serving time, there is a renewed need to address how the severe consequence of gendered inequality within correctional environments can result in sexualized punishment. Time is up for the unnecessary suffering brought upon by all forms of sexual harassment and abuse against imprisoned women and girls.

Along with her colleagues from the Thailand Institute of Justice, Barbara Owen will be presenting at ACJS in New Orleans this Saturday, February 17 at 8:00am on Research and Hunan Rights: Foreign National Women’s Experience of Imprisonment in Cambodia. 


Barbara Owen is Professor Emerita at California State University, Fresno. She is co-author of In Search of Safety, with James Wells, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, and Joycelyn Pollock, Distinguished Professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Texas State University.