More and more women-mothers, grandmothers, wives, daughters, and sisters are doing hard prison time all across the United States. Many of them are facing the prospect of years, decades, even lifetimes behind bars. Oddly, there’s been little public discussion about the dramatic increase of women in the prison system. What exactly is happening here, and why? This paper will be a critical analysis of the book, “Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System. This paper will
Journalist Silja Talvi’s Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in The U.S Prison System is an overview of issues affecting incarcerated women. The goal of the book Women Behind Bars is to increase the awareness about the growing population of women prisoners. Women Behind Bars presents a number of important issues regarding women prisoners. Incarcerated women’s stories represent a distillation of the larger forces that affect free women like racism, sexism and economic pressure. For these reasons, Silja Talvi explains, “incarcerated women should not be forgotten, despite the stigma of their criminal convictions and their physical removal from the community” (Talvi, 2007). Additionally, though incarcerated women may be locked up, they should not be overlooked. Women Behind Bars succinctly illustrates some of the important connections involving the War on Drugs, racial disparity, medical neglect: physically and psychologically, and the high rate of substance abuse and physical and sexual abuse among incarcerated women. Silja Talvi’s aim is to “shed light on what has contributed to this historic phenomenon of the mass incarceration of women in the United States” (Talvi, 2007). This paper will give background on how Silja J.A. Talvi researched the increase of female incarceration. This paper will also give insight surrounding the problems of the women, who Silja J.A. Talvi interviewed, faced while incarcerated. Additionally, outside resources pertaining to the issue of women in prison will be mentioned throughout this paper. Finally, an informed opinion based on the collection of outside information and what was learned from the book will be presented. Silja J.A. Talvi bases her account on interviews with women prisoners. Silja J.A. Talvi had in-person and phone interviews with roughly one hundred women prisoners over a two year span. She also received letters from approximately three hundred women behind bars. In addition, she interviewed more than a dozen women who has been releases form jail or prison. Silja J.A. Talvi stayed in regular contact with fifty women locked up in state and federal prisons in seventeen states. In addition, Silja Talvi visited he women’s county jails in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as the Seattle/King County detention facility for juveniles. Silja Talvi also spent a fair amount of time talking with and learning from low-income women on Seattle streets who were willing to talk about their encounters with law enforcement and incarceration. Internationally, Silja Talvi was also granted permission to visit three women’s prisons, including the European Union’s biggest women’s prison, Holloway, in London, England; the sole female prison on Hameenlinna, Finland; and a provincial Canadian prison in British Columbia. Silja Talvi focuses on these women because she believes “that incarcerated females are the most misunderstood population in the vast U.S. incarceration system” (Talvi, 2007). These accounts from the women interviewed will further the insight on the realities of female incarceration. Further on this topic of incarceration, the author, Silja J.A. Talvi has stated that the United States has more people in prison than any other nation. “By mid-2006, the total number of women and men in prison rose to over 2.24 million, representing a significant increase from earlier year” (Harrison & Beck, 2006). Relatively speaking,...
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