The Politics of Confinement & Resistance
By Karlene Faith
(Seven Stories Press, Paperback, 9781609801373, 368pp.)
Publication Date: July 26, 2011
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Winner of the VanCity Book Prize, Unruly Women: The Politics of Confinement & Resistance is the seminal book about women’s imprisonment that helped spark examinations around the world into the special circumstances women face in prison, as well as the sex and gender crimes that get them there. Most women who are incarcerated do not pose a danger to society but transgress patriarchal, capitalist norms that seek to control their bodies and choices, as seen in the case of prostitution and prosecutions of pregnant women for risky behaviors. Further, the majority of women who enter the criminal justice system have been victims of violence, which raises questions about the continuum from victimization to criminalization. Unruly Women explores patterns of female crimes and punishments, from the witch hunts to the present; institutionalized violence and sexual abuse against incarcerated women; women loving women in prison; motherhood inside prison; battered woman syndrome; Hollywood’s formulaic women-in-prison films; political education in prisons; and acts of resistance, inside and out. Karlene Faith challenges misconceptions of "deviant" women, and celebrates the unruly woman: the unmanageable woman who claims her own body, and who cannot be silenced. As the "drug war" wages on, riddled with excessive and inequitable prison sentences; the incarcerated population skyrockets toward 2.5 million (up from less than 200,000 nationwide in 1970); and private prisons burgeon around the coasts, now is a critical moment to educate ourselves about what is at stake with our prison system. Faith’s incisive work causes us to question the usefulness of the forced confinement and surveillance of mostly nonviolent people.
A human rights activist for five decades, KARLENE FAITH is Canada’s leading feminist sociologist on prisons. Her seminal book, Unruly Women, raised many crucial questions that define the prison reform movements of today. Co-founder of the revolutionary Santa Cruz Women’s Prison Project in 1972, and author of many books on criminology and women’s studies, Faith is currently professor emerita at Simon Fraser University’s School of Criminology.
"Unruly Women is an important text for classroom teaching and research, because it places the ongoing crisis of women in prison in historical context. It provides a point of comparison with more recent research on this topic. The title also encourages readers to break out of the singular focus on incarcerated women to trace out the many different ways women have been—and continue to be—defined as unruly and deviant, in need of intense social control." --Geraldine Casey, John Jay College of Criminal Justice