Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time

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Overview

Photojournalist Susan Madden Lankford thought provokingly explores the kaleidoscope of alienation, personal despair, desperation, and fragile hopes of women caught up in the state's zeal for incarceration. Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time is the product of more than two years of photographing and interviewing inmates and correctional staff at a more-or-less typical women's jail in the United States.

Her flesh- and-blood images of...
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Overview

Photojournalist Susan Madden Lankford thought provokingly explores the kaleidoscope of alienation, personal despair, desperation, and fragile hopes of women caught up in the state's zeal for incarceration. Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time is the product of more than two years of photographing and interviewing inmates and correctional staff at a more-or-less typical women's jail in the United States.

Her flesh- and-blood images of life behind the concrete and steel facilities that house these women present us with a cogent portrait of diffused lives, and a reflective glimpse of emotional and physical institutionalization. We hear not only the frank and graphic voices of both the jailed and the jailers, but also from rehabilitation counselors, attorneys, judges, medical professionals and psychiatrists. Their experiences and insights into the fastest growing segment of the U.S. prison population give new meaning to the slogan "No Child Left Behind."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Through photographs, interviews, statistics and other exhaustive research, photographer and first-time author Lankford captures from all angles the experience of women inmates confined to a typical jail in San Diego County. Interviews with jail officials, from deputies to counselors to directors, reveal exhausted, often jaded individuals who lack the resources to do their jobs properly; one deputy says that "98 percent of inmates have drug histories," but funding levels barely keep inmates in food and housing, much less rehab programs. As such, California's "three strikes" law sends women to jail for life without ever offering them a chance at getting clean. Kristina Edwards came to jail pregnant on charges ranging from kidnapping to attempted murder, crimes she claimed she was too high to recall even being involved with; Lankford follows her progress, like other inmates', with care and compassion. Delivering her baby chained to a hospital bed, Edwards becomes a symbol of the cycle in which she's trapped, a fate often presaged by parental abandonment and neglect. Informative, frank, relentless and disturbing, the book's strong voices and stark format-black and white photos, transcribed Q&As, pull-quotes from subjects and experts-are completely absorbing, raising important questions about why women end up in jail and, too often, keep coming back.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780979236600
  • Publisher: Humane Exposures Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/1/2008
  • Pages: 283
  • Product dimensions: 12.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

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  • Posted December 13, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An Excellent Description of Life for Women in Jail

    When I received my copy of Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes I thought that this would be an easy read, a simple read. Firstly it looks a bit like a coffee table book. I thought that this would be something to browse, but just a harsher subject matter.<BR/><BR/>Boy, was I fooled.<BR/><BR/>Susan Madden Lankford was not there at the jailhouse in San Diego simply to snap photos so that we could see ¿the inside¿. She followed many of the prisoners and even some former prisoners who shared their stories and experiences in raw detail. This book left quite an impression on me. I took it with me to Jomtien, a beach community in Thailand, to read over a weekend. I found myself staying up late into the night to get through the stories this book contains.<BR/><BR/>It should be of no surprise to the reader to find that most all of the women who were researched and interviewed for this book came from broken homes and the majority of them saw drugs and prostitution as the only life they could live. Susan Madden Lankford doesn¿t leave this entirely to the study of these female inmates. She does give us background information about the status of the jails and prison systems in America. <BR/><BR/>One of the tragic women in the book has been haunting me since reading this book. Her name is Kristina Edwards.<BR/><BR/>To look at the photos of Kristina Edwards you would think that she could even be the girl next door, yet we are introduced to her as a pregnant teen runaway (eighteen years old at the time the book was researched) who gave birth while incarcerated and was convicted of murder. Kristina is now doing twenty-five to life in a California prison and will never get the chance to raise her daughter. That job fell to her estranged mother, who wasn¿t much of a mother to Kristina. Later in the week after returning to Bangkok I found myself doing a Google search on Kristina¿s name and case ¿ that¿s how much this book can get under your skin. It can leave you with a feeling of hopelessness or, if you are that kind of person, it can make you appreciate what you have: a home to go home to with someone there who loves you.<BR/><BR/>The book is well photographed and well written. The author did a very professional job and I hope she continues on this path. Susan Madden Lankford is telling many of the stories that we ignore to our own detriment.

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