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Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women's Prisons

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People in U.S. prisons are routinely subjected to physical, sexual, and mental abuse. While this has been documented in male prisons, women in prison often suffer in relative anonymity. Women Inside addresses this critical social justice issue, empowering incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women to share the stories that have previously been silenced. Among the narrato People in U.S. prisons are routinely subjected to physical, sexual, and mental abuse. While this has been documented in male prisons, women in prison often suffer in relative anonymity. Women Inside addresses this critical social justice issue, empowering incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women to share the stories that have previously been silenced. Among the narrators: •Irma Rodriguez, in prison on drug charges. While in prison in 1990, Irma was diagnosed HIV positive, but after a decade and a half of aggressive and toxic treatment, Irma learned that she never had HIV. •Sheri Dwight, a domestic violence survivor who was sent to prison for attempting to kill her batterer. While in prison, she underwent surgery for abdominal pain and learned more than four years later that she had been sterilized without her consent.


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People in U.S. prisons are routinely subjected to physical, sexual, and mental abuse. While this has been documented in male prisons, women in prison often suffer in relative anonymity. Women Inside addresses this critical social justice issue, empowering incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women to share the stories that have previously been silenced. Among the narrato People in U.S. prisons are routinely subjected to physical, sexual, and mental abuse. While this has been documented in male prisons, women in prison often suffer in relative anonymity. Women Inside addresses this critical social justice issue, empowering incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women to share the stories that have previously been silenced. Among the narrators: •Irma Rodriguez, in prison on drug charges. While in prison in 1990, Irma was diagnosed HIV positive, but after a decade and a half of aggressive and toxic treatment, Irma learned that she never had HIV. •Sheri Dwight, a domestic violence survivor who was sent to prison for attempting to kill her batterer. While in prison, she underwent surgery for abdominal pain and learned more than four years later that she had been sterilized without her consent.

30 review for Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women's Prisons

  1. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    for when you need a good cry, a good strong agonized scream against the quiet horrors of our often harrowingly terrible world.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kathrina

    From now on, if you ask me why I'm interested in prison reform, I don't have to say anything. I can just hand you this book. I probably will say something, though. And I hope this book makes you say something, too. From now on, if you ask me why I'm interested in prison reform, I don't have to say anything. I can just hand you this book. I probably will say something, though. And I hope this book makes you say something, too.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hannah (Peevey) Way

    I read this in fits and starts because, unsurprisingly, women are treated pretty horribly in American prisons. From unfair (too heavy) sentences, poor healthcare, poverty, mental illness, drug addiction, and the constant threat and act of rape, our prison system is inhumane and horrifying. One researcher found that dogs and cats are treated more humanely than most female prisoners. I read this for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge as my “book written from prison.” Some of the woman interviewed I read this in fits and starts because, unsurprisingly, women are treated pretty horribly in American prisons. From unfair (too heavy) sentences, poor healthcare, poverty, mental illness, drug addiction, and the constant threat and act of rape, our prison system is inhumane and horrifying. One researcher found that dogs and cats are treated more humanely than most female prisoners. I read this for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge as my “book written from prison.” Some of the woman interviewed were currently incarcerated and others had left prison. But, I specifically wanted to learn more about women’s experiences in prison and this book includes a wide range of accounts with varying circumstances. All have an underlying theme of inhumane treatment and trauma.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    This book broke my heart a thousand times. The absolute atrocities and cruelties and just total lack of respect, agency, dignity given to women in the prison system...it's just so disheartening and awful. The abuse inflicted on them by those in power is sickening, and I don't care what someone has done to be put in prison, they do not deserve what many of these women experienced. I'm grateful to the editors of this book for getting these stories out there, for letting these women speak their tru This book broke my heart a thousand times. The absolute atrocities and cruelties and just total lack of respect, agency, dignity given to women in the prison system...it's just so disheartening and awful. The abuse inflicted on them by those in power is sickening, and I don't care what someone has done to be put in prison, they do not deserve what many of these women experienced. I'm grateful to the editors of this book for getting these stories out there, for letting these women speak their truths and their lived experiences. I feel like this ought to be added to school curricula and given to every damn "tough on crime" politician. If only...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sofia Ariana

    One of the most beautiful and complex books I’ve ever read. Each narrative holds so much depth and brings forth issues that I genuinely didn’t even know existed within our justice system. These stories invoked strong feelings of empathy, prompting me to take a step back and look at things with a new set of eyes. Every individual must read this for the sake of our prison system, our society, and our humanity.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Veronique

    This was a very interesting and hard topic to read about. I felt the injustice for these women, some doing crimes only to survive and then getting life sentences with more abuse in the prison cells I haven't read all the appendices so far, but might in the future. I just feel a bit drowned emotionally after reading it This was a very interesting and hard topic to read about. I felt the injustice for these women, some doing crimes only to survive and then getting life sentences with more abuse in the prison cells I haven't read all the appendices so far, but might in the future. I just feel a bit drowned emotionally after reading it

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gabby Humphreys

    I picked this up on a whim, and bloody hell, what a treat. As it says on the cover, Inside This Place, Not Of It is narratives from women’s prisons, specifically US prisons and thirteen peoples’ experiences before, during and sometimes after these prisons. This book by a group called Voice of Witness who are a non-profit organisation that try and educate on social matters and do so through an empathy-based understanding. The idea behind this book is *chefs kisses*. It focusses on the backgrounds o I picked this up on a whim, and bloody hell, what a treat. As it says on the cover, Inside This Place, Not Of It is narratives from women’s prisons, specifically US prisons and thirteen peoples’ experiences before, during and sometimes after these prisons. This book by a group called Voice of Witness who are a non-profit organisation that try and educate on social matters and do so through an empathy-based understanding. The idea behind this book is *chefs kisses*. It focusses on the backgrounds of these women, some formerly imprisoned and others currently imprisoned. Now, don’t get me wrong, some people could be pure evil. I am not disrupting that bad does not exist. However, I firmly believe that it is common for those who have ended up in prison to have been dealt a pretty shitty hand of cards in life. For example, research has found that over 90% of women in prison have suffered sexual abuse and/or domestic abuse, and have life’s in extreme poverty. I am not over that fact. This book aims to highlight this message by giving voices to those inside and showing context to their convictions. It’s not aiming to evoke sympathy (although I certainly felt it for many cases where harm was absolutely self-defence), but instead to encourage you to withhold future judgement and see these people as, well, people. It’s educational, it’s well-written, it is so gripping. It’s lots of short accounts of these women but the pieces don’t leave you feeling short changed. Instead, this book has depth you end up knowing a crowd of women on a personal level. This book took me by surprise and I def recommend it. I imagine it’d be great as an audio book too? Ps. Trigger warnings for death, rape, transphobia, traumatic birth, drug use, power manipulation, general inhumane treatment, kind of everything. It’s heavy, but rly good if u feel up for it. @humph_reads

  8. 4 out of 5

    Avid Reader

    Must read for anyone concerned for basic human decency in this country. Also you can catch one of the first person accounts from this book in the 2012 edition of The Best American Nonrequired Reading. I plan on reviewing this in detail once I get the physical book back from a friend (love my Kindle but not a fan of ebooks). As a rule I generally don't loan my books out but this one in particular screams to be shared repeatedly. Must read for anyone concerned for basic human decency in this country. Also you can catch one of the first person accounts from this book in the 2012 edition of The Best American Nonrequired Reading. I plan on reviewing this in detail once I get the physical book back from a friend (love my Kindle but not a fan of ebooks). As a rule I generally don't loan my books out but this one in particular screams to be shared repeatedly.

  9. 5 out of 5

    b bb bbbb bbbbbbbb

    Heavy material, but a good and important read. Humanizing, though it felt better to me when the narratives were read one at a time apart from the others.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Stern

    This engrossing narrative is a collection of interviews with women who have been in the prison system in this country in a number of different state prisons. Each story is its own unique tragedy but several things are common to all: the mindless brutality of our prison system and the poverty and dysfunctional lives these women come from. Most were sexually and physically abused as children often with drug addicted parents. There was no one to protect them from repeated bad decisions that dig the This engrossing narrative is a collection of interviews with women who have been in the prison system in this country in a number of different state prisons. Each story is its own unique tragedy but several things are common to all: the mindless brutality of our prison system and the poverty and dysfunctional lives these women come from. Most were sexually and physically abused as children often with drug addicted parents. There was no one to protect them from repeated bad decisions that dig them into deeper and deeper holes. By the time they hit the prison system they have no self-esteem, are usually drug addicted and confused, often pregnant and leave behind a path of destruction for their own families, their children and also the other victims of their awful decisions. Even the best-equipped institution in the world would hardly know what to do when faced with an army of these women descending upon it. And most of our prisons are far from that ideal institution. The legal system completely fails them with poor legal advice and incompetent defense causing them to get very stiff sentences that would be unlikely with someone who had a good defense attorney. Inside the prisons, both guards and other inmates can be brutal and predatory. It is dreadful to watch the spirally down from abusive childhood to abusive husbands, youthful pregnancies, drug addictions, mental illnesses, stumbling into crimes, and then the draconian encounters with the legal system. They don't understand any of it and for some the first chance to soberly reflect is in prison itself. Fortunately for all of these women, someone or group eventually offers them a kind of lifeline either in friendship, mentoring, rehab or even more important, legal help and counseling, and they try to pull themselves back up. Of course they can't undo the damage - the effects on their children, family and victims, and themselves - but they manage take responsibility. You can only admire their courage and wish them well. Needless to say this book is an indictment of our prison system. In this particular book the concentration is on women's prisons, but undoubtedly there are massive abuses in men's prisons too. In our current political environment, there is little incentive to address these very complicated issues. In the long run we as a society pay a heavy price, but nowhere near the price of people like these women and their families and victims

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    The USA is one fucked up country. The narratives in this book hurt me so deeply. The amount of institutional abuse these people suffered and are still suffering at the hands of the US prison system is appalling. Unfair trials, sexual abuse, rape, discrimination, basically zero healthcare. It’s horrendous, and definitely necessary reading, but now I feel really powerless to do anything about it. I wish I could find an update on what happened to some of the narrators since the book came out. I wan The USA is one fucked up country. The narratives in this book hurt me so deeply. The amount of institutional abuse these people suffered and are still suffering at the hands of the US prison system is appalling. Unfair trials, sexual abuse, rape, discrimination, basically zero healthcare. It’s horrendous, and definitely necessary reading, but now I feel really powerless to do anything about it. I wish I could find an update on what happened to some of the narrators since the book came out. I want them all to be doing okay. Is that ridiculous?? I don’t think so. Charlie Morningstar’s story particularly got me - a trans man forced to stay in a women’s prison echoes a lot of the narrative going on still today, and it’s heartbreaking. The fact that it was implied his trial was unfair due to transphobia as well makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs that he should get another - fair - trial. But then I watched Death Row Stories and realised how much judges in the US don’t give a shit if trials are fair or not. I’m just upset. The world is so unfair.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joann Im

    A heart-wrenching yet powerful account on cruelty and human rights violation that occurs within women's prisons in the United States. The narratives of the 13 former and/or current prisoners' experiences were moving and upsetting. These women's powerful narratives and the appendices reveals the racial bias and discrimination in policies and practices within the legal framework that creates barrier in protecting their Eighth Amendment rights. This book was very informative and provided perspectiv A heart-wrenching yet powerful account on cruelty and human rights violation that occurs within women's prisons in the United States. The narratives of the 13 former and/or current prisoners' experiences were moving and upsetting. These women's powerful narratives and the appendices reveals the racial bias and discrimination in policies and practices within the legal framework that creates barrier in protecting their Eighth Amendment rights. This book was very informative and provided perspectives and issues that brought forth empathy and awareness. America has a long history of economic and social inequality that is still a ongoing concern today. This creates racial image and narrative bias in causing lack of interest in changes and improvements within the institution and I loved how this book highlighted this issue. These women's first hand narratives are heartbreaking, uncomfortable yet their courage was inspirational. This is a challenging read but a essential one.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    This book is really tough to read, purely because hearing these important stories about how atrociously these women are treated is hard. To listen to these stories, to question our biases, and to help make the world a more equitable place going forward is an important thing for us to do as people. If we want to call these places correctional facilities then we need to treat people like humans inside of those places and help them find the resources they need to live a good life after they've serv This book is really tough to read, purely because hearing these important stories about how atrociously these women are treated is hard. To listen to these stories, to question our biases, and to help make the world a more equitable place going forward is an important thing for us to do as people. If we want to call these places correctional facilities then we need to treat people like humans inside of those places and help them find the resources they need to live a good life after they've served time, not psychologically or physically impair their likelihood of future success. The rampant sexual abuse inside these prisons was just awful to hear about, to think people can be so twisted to use their power in that way and then have no punishment for their actions is frankly embarrassing. I have a lot to say because of this book, but mostly this book is well put together, thoroughly researched, and an important read for anyone and everyone, but mostly for everyone.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This book is important. These stories are important. Read if you want to hear directly from incarcerated women their heartbreaking experiences. Read if you don't want to hear but because you *need* to hear them. However, for people more entrenched in this work, I wanted this book to be more intersectional that it was. The authors also make some sweeping statements in the introduction that contribute to the erasure of certain incarcerated peoples' lived experiences (i.e. "Not once in creating thi This book is important. These stories are important. Read if you want to hear directly from incarcerated women their heartbreaking experiences. Read if you don't want to hear but because you *need* to hear them. However, for people more entrenched in this work, I wanted this book to be more intersectional that it was. The authors also make some sweeping statements in the introduction that contribute to the erasure of certain incarcerated peoples' lived experiences (i.e. "Not once in creating this volume did we come across a woman who described being sexually abused by another prisoner" -- this runs inconsistent to the experiences of people in prison I speak to; it also refuses to acknowledge the nuance that I think makes for more relevant starting point.)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    It's unfathomable how much the women in this book have had to suffer and my heart goes out to them and women in similar situations. It was interesting and infuriating to get a glimpse into the US prison system (and I really hope things are different in my country). However, I wish the super interesting (meta)information wasn't "hidden" in the appendix. I get why the authors might want the stories to speak for themselves, but I was missing the meta-discussion throughout the book (until I saw the It's unfathomable how much the women in this book have had to suffer and my heart goes out to them and women in similar situations. It was interesting and infuriating to get a glimpse into the US prison system (and I really hope things are different in my country). However, I wish the super interesting (meta)information wasn't "hidden" in the appendix. I get why the authors might want the stories to speak for themselves, but I was missing the meta-discussion throughout the book (until I saw the appendices). Also, I wish there was more up-to-date information. This first came out in 2011 but my edition is from 2017 but it isn't addressed whether some thins (data, rules, etc.) might have changed (for better or worse) by now.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This is a pretty challenging read with a lot of upsetting narratives. There’s a good mix of different experiences, women both in and recently out of prison, violent and non-violent crimes, different histories of abuse, and every voice comes through very well. It’s a good narrative about the ways that crime doesn’t just come from bad people, but bad decisions, bad environments, bad families, bad protections. I wouldn’t say this was the greatest reading experience, but I think it was an important This is a pretty challenging read with a lot of upsetting narratives. There’s a good mix of different experiences, women both in and recently out of prison, violent and non-violent crimes, different histories of abuse, and every voice comes through very well. It’s a good narrative about the ways that crime doesn’t just come from bad people, but bad decisions, bad environments, bad families, bad protections. I wouldn’t say this was the greatest reading experience, but I think it was an important one.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cristina

    This book is exactly what it purports to be: first-hand accounts from formerly and currently incarcerated women about life on the inside. I especially appreciated the appendices, which frame these women's stories within a larger context using studies, surveys and legal precedents. These moving narratives, along with the research and statistics in the appendices, can hopefully provide the impetus for some much needed accountability within the needlessly cruel and inhuman system of incarceration t This book is exactly what it purports to be: first-hand accounts from formerly and currently incarcerated women about life on the inside. I especially appreciated the appendices, which frame these women's stories within a larger context using studies, surveys and legal precedents. These moving narratives, along with the research and statistics in the appendices, can hopefully provide the impetus for some much needed accountability within the needlessly cruel and inhuman system of incarceration that we've developed in the US.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Powerful narratives from incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women about their lives and their experiences within prison. You will stop and cry several times throughout this book as these women's harrowing stories shake your very foundation and force you to stop and ask what the point of prison even is. You will be surprised at the amazing women who maintain hope and light even after living the darkest parts of our world. I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks they can handle the d Powerful narratives from incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women about their lives and their experiences within prison. You will stop and cry several times throughout this book as these women's harrowing stories shake your very foundation and force you to stop and ask what the point of prison even is. You will be surprised at the amazing women who maintain hope and light even after living the darkest parts of our world. I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks they can handle the difficult topic.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Molly Roach

    This was a hard read. We hear abstractly about the horrors of prisons and policing, but to hear it directly from folks who are/have experienced them firsthand is on a whole other level. The rampant and “legal” sexual assault of womxn by guards is absolutely sick. The harassment of butch/masc lesbians, of trans men forced to live in women’s prisons, it’s all just beyond words. Abolish prisons now. Burn them all down.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bookaholic

    Ohhhhh, now I know where Rachel Kushner “borrowed” her characters & episodes from for her highly acclaimed novel “The Mars Room.” Apparently, she has even less imagination than I thought. Anyway, this book is a MUST read. It is not for the faintest of hearts—it paints reality in all of its hues & shades. It is much deeper than “The Orange is the New Black,” “The Mars Room,” or any other similar shows & books. It is heartbreaking and oh-so-necessary.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Williams

    I thought this book was amazing, and well written. The author really put these women's stories and experiences into the eye of the public, and I thought that was really important. The story gives the awareness the public need to see how the prisons are treating the prisoners. It shows how inhumane and unhealthy it is. It was really interesting to hear all these women come forward and talk about their experiences and I really think the author took a great amount of time to do so. I thought this book was amazing, and well written. The author really put these women's stories and experiences into the eye of the public, and I thought that was really important. The story gives the awareness the public need to see how the prisons are treating the prisoners. It shows how inhumane and unhealthy it is. It was really interesting to hear all these women come forward and talk about their experiences and I really think the author took a great amount of time to do so.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    This is the most depressing and horrifying book I've ever read. Trigger warnings for everything. Clearly, prison reform should be a priority in the United States. I begin teaching in a women's prison in a couple of months. I read this to be more informed, and I certainly am. It's far worse than I could've imagined. This is the most depressing and horrifying book I've ever read. Trigger warnings for everything. Clearly, prison reform should be a priority in the United States. I begin teaching in a women's prison in a couple of months. I read this to be more informed, and I certainly am. It's far worse than I could've imagined.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jason Holliday

    This book was really eye opening into the prison culture of women. Some of the stories that were contained in this book made me realize that even at your worst circumstances the fight is not over for freedom and you must keep on with your life.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pastries & Plot Lines

    While I appreciate the importance of these stories this book wasn’t what I was looking for. As I read more and more of these women’s stories I craved answers and activism and instead was presented with more and more trauma.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bekah

    an emotionally difficult but very important read

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Rae

    👏 ALL 👏 HUMANS 👏 DESERVE 👏 BASIC 👏 RIGHTS 👏 EVEN 👏 FELONS 👏 NO EXCEPTIONS👏 I think the parts that hit hardest for me were all the tales of medical neglect and abuse. UGH.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    The true narratives are emotionally searing and then the appendices just make you angry - why are we, as a country, so primitive and inhuman in how we treat women who are incarcerated?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Beth Anne

    Hearing the voices of these women is heartbreaking but important. So glad the book offered such an in-depth appendices.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Peggii

    The courage of incarcerated women who survive inhumane treatment is beyond what anyone can think. Love Voices of Witness books!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jane Miller

    An eyeopening read into the circumstances that result in the imprisonment of women and the horrendous things that happen to them once in prison.

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