At Work in the Iron Cage: The Prison as Gendered by Dana M. Britton

By Dana M. Britton

While most folks examine prisons, they think chaos, violence, and essentially, an environment of overwhelming brute masculinity. yet genuine prisons not often healthy the “Big apartment” stereotype of renowned movie and literature. One 5th of all correctional officials are ladies, and the speed at which ladies are imprisoned is turning out to be speedier than that of guys. but, regardless of expanding numbers of girls prisoners and officials, principles approximately felony existence and legal paintings are sill ruled by way of an exaggerated photograph of men’s prisons the place inmates supposedly fight for actual dominance.In an extraordinary comparative research of men’s and women’s prisons, Dana Britton identifies the criteria that impact the gendering of the yank place of work, a procedure that frequently leaves ladies in lower-paying jobs with much less status and responsibility.In interviews with dozens of female and male officials in 5 prisons, Britton explains how gender shapes their daily paintings studies. Combining criminology, penology, and feminist concept, she deals an intensive new argument for the endurance of gender inequality in prisons and different companies. At paintings within the Iron Cage demonstrates the significance of the legal as a website of gender family in addition to social keep watch over.

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As one planter observed, “All their men are thieves, and all the women are prostitutes. It’s their natur’ to be that way, and they’ll never be no other way” (quoted in Oshinsky 1996: 32). In the terms of this logic, slavery controlled these “natural” tendencies; freedom liberated them. Sensationalist news reporting focused almost exclusively on “atrocities” committed by blacks, with particular outrage reserved for sexual assaults against white women (Ayers 1984, 1992). 8 The result was an inmate population that was 90 percent Penology in America | 43 black in most southern states after the Civil War (Colvin 1997; Oshinsky 1996).

By recreating the tensions that informed the behavior of those of the “great middle class,” the penitentiary would become a means of reinforcing the relationships that bound the citizenry and political authority together. (1987: 126) Penology in America | 27 Reform rhetoric framed crime as a rejection of middle-class values and, ultimately, as a violation of the social contract at the heart of civil society (Hirsch 1992). Then (as now) this had the useful effect of focusing panic over crime and targeting public attention solely on the lower, “dangerous” classes.

Neither the physical structures of these institutions nor their disciplinary regimes had been designed with women in mind, however. Administrators treated women either as afterthoughts or as annoyances. Reformers’ and legislatures’ mandate to separate the sexes in congregate institutions worked to disadvantage women, as wardens placed them in makeshift quarters away from the main (men’s) inmate population. At Auburn, for example, women were initially kept in an overcrowded, unventilated, third-floor attic above the institution’s kitchen.

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