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A World Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  245 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
“Life in a women’s prison is full of surprises,” writes Cristina Rathbone in her landmark account of life at MCI-Framingham. And so it is. After two intense court battles with prison officials, Rathbone gained unprecedented access to the otherwise invisible women of the oldest running women’s prison in America.

The picture that emerges is both astounding and enraging. Wome
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 13th 2006 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published May 17th 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-non-fic
Finding myself desperate for more when I finished the first season of Orange Is The New Black, I ordered the titular novel and this book. While Orange Is The New Black was an entertaining, informative read, it has nothing on A World Apart.

Interchanging present day narrative of inmates she has interviewed and the history of prison in Massachusetts and the broader United States, Rathbone captured my fascination in the same way Krakauer did with Under the Banner of Heaven. The transition between th
Mar 17, 2013 added it
This is a well-written book with in-depth personal looks at the lives of several women imprisoned in Massachusetts. The author weaves history of incarceration in the state (and some national information as well) through the personal accounts of women. It was also interesting to read about the author's struggles in gaining access to the prisons in order to conduct her research and how the Department of Corrections stood in her way. Overall, a very interesting and disturbing read which humanizes t ...more
Apr 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
An enlightening look inside MCI-Framingham, the women's prison. Should be required reading for all criminal justice majors, and all politicians who want to cut funding for rehabilitation and educational programs in prisons (both men's and women's). Yes, you will find this depressing, but perhaps it will prompt you to take more of an interest in how prisoners are treated in your own state. Well-written and fair; the author isn't sugar-coating these women's lives or crimes, but she does illustrate ...more
Taylor Hutchcraft
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Must read book for all Criminal Justice majors, gives you an insight on how women in prison is treated and how they feel while in prison!!
A bit too reformist for me, but a heart breaking, important, and enthralling read nonetheless. Rathbone portrays a capacity for empathy too often lacking in discussions of the lives of prisoners.
Jan 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: pretentious-crap

Here are some causes you can take up instead of the plights of women (or men) behind bars:

Won't someone think of the cockroaches?

Pond scum has a right to rehab and rehabilitation to become a productive member of plant society!

This one's for me - I fucking hate baboons, but I care more for them than prisoners.

Now I'm in a cranky mood because a simple Bing search for baboons turned up a lot of disgusting baboon butts.

I picked up this book thinking it would tide me over until the new seasons of
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-issues
It was not easy for Crustina Rathbone to gain access to a women's prison in Massachusetts, to conduct interviews with inmates, and somehow she did. Not surprisingly, being an inmate is a hard existence.,

What struck me about their stories were two things: (a) Huge concern of mothers for their children, who they are separated from, and (b) The long incarcerations imposed by mandatory sentencing.

The "opportunity cost" of incarcerating someone's mother? Probably huge, especially since young children
Margie Shelton
Sep 08, 2013 rated it liked it
The author documents her visits with female inmates at two federal prisons over a period of time. The stories are of life behind bars and the life that lead to life behind bars. The book is interesting, depressing, and, by the end, exhausting - with the "high school" carryings-on. The author fills in with some interesting history of women's prisons in the U.S. Discussions of education, skills, mandatory sentencing, and solitary confinement.
Jamie Cerretti
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I learned a lot from this book, particularly about the history of women in the criminal "justice" system. The only thing I felt was lacking was more of a racial lens/ analysis- there were only a couple of mentions about disproportionate impacts on women of color.
Oct 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
The story of the women in Framingham Prison was of course upsetting. It disturbed me greatly to learn so many mothers are behind bars and so many for non violent crime. I was saddened to learn that women with mental disabilities are not housed in medical facilities as one would expect, but often times locked in prison where they can cause harm to themselves and others.
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in alternative stories
Surprisingly, I couldn't put this book down. I had picked it up to do some research for a project I'm thinking about starting and not only was it killer interesting but Rathbone's writing style is so seriously engaging that I caught myself wishing that I could write just like her. Her dedication to her work is inspiring and I'd read another of hers in a heart beat.
Abigail Kokitus
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
While the author, Christina Rathbone, could not gain access to more than the visiting room of Framingham, she still managed to paint a vivid picture of the experiences of several women incarcerated there. Rathbone also seamlessly blended testimonies, history, and statistics to form a solid, well-written book regarding incarcerated women. A must read for anyone interested in the subject!
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social
An incredibly interesting and heart wrenching look into the lives of incarcerated women. Are we treating female criminals correctly? Can we do something other than conventional incarceration for female convicts? Why do the crimes many women commit land them in prison? These are just a few of the questions this book raises and even tries to answer, or at least shed some light on.
Laura H
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Read this as a follow-up to Orange Is the New Black. While centering on the narratives of four women in a state prison in Massachusetts, this book was more successful at addressing the broader issues of social justice, sexism, transparency and accountability, and reform. Very enlightening.
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who want to know about what goes on in their own criminal justice system
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved this piece of non-fiction. I had to read it for a "Women and Crime" course and it really opened my eyes to the world of women's prisons, what they go through and the outrageous policy of Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing. It really makes you feel for the women who give their stories.
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
After seeing people get separated from their children one two many times, there is NO WAY I could do anything that would make me go to jail or lose my kids. Hearing these stories only made me want to be a good girl. I would not do well in prison. Oh, and I would miss my kids.
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
compassionate, informative, sometimes hard to read. certainly deeper than Orange is the New Black and offers more insight both into the prison system in the US as well as the lives of incarcerated women. reaches the heart and the mind of the reader.
Apr 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: criminal-justice
interesting look at life in a women's prison, though not very well organized
Jul 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This was an eye-opening book about women in prison. I knew of the inequities within prisons for women, but this hit home. I learned more about the history of women's prisons.
Mar 06, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2007
It’s very apparent throughout this book that the author doesn’t get access to the actual prison. The story starts out strong, but relies too much on somewhat cliché characters, typical inmates.
A book that told me a lot about the state of women's prisons here in the US. A very sad book, but with flashes of hope thrown in.
Jan 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
crisp and fierce... very good sense of women in Framingham state prison, as well as the history of jailing women, for poor attitudes adn sometimes worse.
Kat Daley
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book dramatically opened my eyes to what life was like behind bars for women these days. This book brings the profiles of different women alive in a while new way.
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not as riveting as Orange Is The New Black, but very good. The book also had an interesting look at how corrections departments try to keep the media away.
Jul 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Amazing read. Launched my prison activism.
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed-on-blog
I reviewed A World Apart here.
Jun 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
A look at what incarcerated women really experience, how they got there, and how they survive.
Dec 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, prison
Interesting history of women's prisons in the US- along with personal stories. Orange is the New Black but fer reels.
rated it it was ok
Jun 07, 2012
rated it it was amazing
Aug 06, 2013
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