By Jill A. McCorkel
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Extra info for Breaking women : gender, race, and the new politics of imprisonment
Chapter 5 scrutinizes the kinds of knowledge about the self that the habilitative control apparatus yields. While the previous chapter analyzes how program staff know what they know about prisoners’ selves, this chapter inventories the contents of that knowledge. The images of internal disorder that counselors “mirror” back to prisoners draw on racially controlling images of African American women across three domains: motherhood, sexuality, and labor market. In the final section of the book, I consider the consequences of this new system of punishment from the perspective of those who are its targets—predominantly poor, African American women with some connection to the illicit drug economy.
All this changed, however, when a shift in the racial demographic of the prisoner population coincided with a rise in institutional disorder and overcrowding. ” Race was central to this distinction and, ultimately, to legitimating a change in the prison’s control apparatus. I argue that Prison Services Company capitalized on this crisis by providing staff with a clinical discourse that offered quasi-scientific validation for racist constructions of “real criminals” and their needs. In short order, the disease concept became the central ideological register for justifying changes to the practice and objective of control within the prison.
Interviews with prisoners, the overwhelming majority of whom were in PHW at one point or another, typically focused on their experiences in the criminal justice system, particularly their prison experiences, as well as broader discussions of their life histories. Nearly half of all respondents were interviewed more than once over the four-year period. In addition to formal interviews, I had hundreds of informal conversations with prisoners, former prisoners, correctional officers, social workers, administrators, prison activists, family members, and counselors.