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Making It in the Free World: Women in Transition from Prison


Explores how women inmates make the transition from prison back into society.
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Making It in the Free World: Women in Transition from Prison

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Explores how women inmates make the transition from prison back into society.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This research study by O'Brien (social work, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago) is based on interviews with 18 women formerly incarcerated for transgressions involving substance abuse or property. She shows how their prison and parole experiences affected their reentry into the "free world" as they sought to establish homes, experience healthy relationships with family and others, and live productive lives. The author found that each woman's degree of stability was strongly related to the availability and quality of education, counseling, and vocational training during her confinement as well as the nature of supervision and assistance from parole officers and others following their release. Among other topics, she ties together a review of related literature, a description of her research strategy, and a serious questioning of the value to society (as well as to the individual) of the current "get tough" incarceration solution to nonviolent "criminal" activity of both sexes. Recommended for academic and professional attention. Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology at Alfred Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Written for policy makers and practitioners involved with the growing number of women in jails and prisons, this book argues that the system needs to become more proactive in recognizing the needs of this population, and more proactive in addressing these needs. Many excerpts are presented from the first person narratives of non- recidivist women who tell what they feel they need to remain free and empowered in a context of powerlessness and increasing social control. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
Extremely well written and addressing an important but neglected topic, this book is significant and critical to the area of women's prisons. The first-person narratives are very powerful.-Barbara Owen, author of "In the Mix": Struggle and Survival in a Women's Prison
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Patricia O’Brien is Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Making It in the "Free World" 1
Ch. 2 Establishing Home 25
Ch. 3 From the Inside Out 53
Ch. 4 Reconstructing Relationships 87
Ch. 5 It Could Be Otherwise 117
Epilogue: Two Years Later 143
App. A: Research Design 149
App. B: Summary of Study Participants 159
Notes 173
References 179
Index 195
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2001

    Powerful stories of former women prisoners' struggles outside

    Based on Dr. O'Brien's thoughtful research, this book was a fascinating look into the lives of 16 women as they struggled to create a new life for themselves after serving their sentences in prison. This is clearly an academic book, but the stories the women tell in their own words are quite moving. They relate desperate efforts to make it on the outside, in many cases so that they can be reunited with their children. I found Dr. O'Brien's discussion of what these women have to teach us to be quite thought-provoking. She makes excellent use of theory to help make the reader understand ways we can view the aftermath of prison life. She also convincingly urges practitioners to take a more proactive stance when working with non-recidivist women (and makes suggestions which may help practitioners assist more women to avoid the revolving door back into prison life by helping the reader to better understand and to identify needs of this population and more responsive to these needs of these women). In addition, I was very interested in her suggestions of ways to change policies -- especially alternatives to imprisonment (which could also better serve the children of women who are now sent hundreds of miles away to serve their sentences and denied regular access to their children). I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the impact of the USA's criminal justice system on women and children. This topic is all too often ignored in the ever-increasing discussions of sentencing guidelines. This book is a giant step forward in helping us all to better understand how the transition from prison life can be facilitated or barricaded for women. The voices of the women in this book need to be heard!

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