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A World Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars by [Rathbone, Cristina]
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A World Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Length: 306 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The number of men in American prisons has doubled in the past 20 years; the number of women incarcerated in the U.S.—now approaching a million—has quintupled during the same period. Journalist Rathbone (On the Outside Looking In) fought in the courts for years to secure access to these women, and her passion and tenacity are on display in this sympathetic but clear-eyed account of life inside Massachusetts's MCI-Framingham, the oldest women's prison in the country. The numbing sameness of women's crimes—nonviolent offenses, mostly drug-related, make up three-fourths of female convictions—is transcended by Rathbone's focus on a handful of individual stories, and women like the vivacious Julie and the tragic, sorrowful Denise emerge as potent reminders of the messy human particularity crowded into America's prisons. The book wisely avoids the temptation to frame these women as mere passive victims of a system or culture gone awry, although Rathbone does not hesitate to expose inefficiency, thoughtlessness and even abuse at all levels of the correctional bureaucracy. Poor psychological care, mandatory sentencing laws and institutionalized sexual exploitation also come in for heavy, thoughtful criticism. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Journalist Rathbone offers a broad yet intimate portrait of life behind bars for women prisoners in MCI Framingham, outside Boston. She spent four and a half years investigating the prison, fighting legal battles for fuller access, and enduring frustration when she was limited to meeting women only in the visiting room. Rathbone offers a historical perspective on the century-old prison and prison reform but is most effective in conveying the personal stories of a few women, who, like most women in prison, were convicted on drug-related charges. Denise, a former stripper, worries about losing time with her young son, who is in the custody of her mentally unstable husband; Julie, the daughter of a policeman and a former heroin addict, is serving time for robbery and is using her youth and sexual appeal to get favors from the guards; and Charlene hungrily devours longer visits with her daughter obtained through the Girl Scouts Behind Bars program. The women speak of the shockingly few programs for education and training, surreptitious sexual relationships with guards, and the agonizing tedium of doing time. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 669 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (December 18, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 18, 2007
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XUBET8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,756 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Julia Huitt on September 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This refreshingly honest book dramatically opened my eyes about the plight of women in prisons today. With thoughtful discussions of previous methods of handling women prisoners, the author brings us to today's problems overwhelmingly caused by mandatory sentencing for drug offenders. I finished the book wondering how I could be part of the solution for getting these women, who are likely mothers, out of the care of the state and back to taking care of their children, their lives, and their futures. This book brings the stories of the women profiled alive, and does not hold back in discussing difficult topics regarding the situation in the women's prison profiled. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a volunteer in a women's prison, I found this book helpful and accurate. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in this issue. The book is very readable, and I plowed through it quickly. The individual stories of women profiled were enlightening, and I particularly enjoyed the historical perspective on incarceration of women. (Thanks to the historical perspective provided by this book, I am now quite sensitive to adult female prison inmates referred to as "girls" or "gals.")

Unfortunately, I think the book's scope is limited by the lack of access extended to the author by prison administrators. This doesn't work out in the prison's favor -- there are aspects of prison life left to the imagination, and if the prison researched for this book is similar to the prison I visit, the imaginings forced by the prison's handling of this author may be worse than the reality. A lack of transparency compounds the social issues that come to roost in our nation's prisons.

I recommend this book. If this is a topic close to your heart, don't miss "Couldn't Keep It To Myself," Wally Lamb's collection of short stories penned by women in prison.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a very well written and accurate depiction of the life women prisoners in this country live on a daily basis. As a criminal defense attorney, I found the historical background quite interesting,. the up-close portraits of several of the women were also revealing, and empathetic ally done. The overall effect was to leave me wanting to reach out and help more, help to make these institutions more healthy and safe and humane.
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Format: Paperback
I am in direct communication with an inmate within the penal system; she hasn't any reason to forecast a future, although she has told me of the conditions there. Her access to this facility has been a mere three days at this point. On the first day she was advised to read this book, "A World Apart".
I referenced these reviews to get a feel of reader response and noted the reference which says the information in the book is outdated. I mentioned this to my correspondent in custody and was told that though only through the first part of the book, the information is accurate...these conditions exist in the here and now. March 3rd, 2012.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone working with incarcerated women will understand that society has not changed much in the last 100 years for the female inmates. Sad! We need to empower the female administrators and the inmates to be able to learn how to make appropriate decisions. We then need to teach them how to deal with adversity and how to enact goals they have made! Too often it is a process that looks good on paper but doesn't effectively help the women change.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For someone who has little knowledge of prison conditions, it is straight forward, real and based on experience of "knowing" the women. It opened me to a new understanding of our picture of justice, or lack of it, as seems to be the bigger truth here.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was fascinated about what I learned regarding women behind bars and the Dept. of Corrections! .....The topic was all new exposure to me so I'm glad that I read it. However, the writing style made it difficult to keep my avid attention - I kind of randomly completed it when convenient.????
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The heart breaking stories are compelling and moving. The historical information on our cultural views on what prisons should accomplish is well written and effectively integrated. And, I'm compelled to believe that we somehow need to move beyond retribution toward true rehabilitation. The author, as she states in her very first sentence, "was unable to move beyond the visiting room of the prison", and that makes me question her ability as an effective reporter.
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