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Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  174 ratings  ·  24 reviews
In 1974, women imprisoned at New York's maximum-security prison at Bedford Hills staged what is known as the August Rebellion. Protesting the brutal beating of a fellow prisoner, the women fought off guards, holding seven of them hostage, and took over sections of the prison. While many have heard of the 1971 Attica prison uprising, the August Rebellion remains relatively ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 1st 2009 by PM Press (first published February 1st 2009)
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Jul 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Of the many staggering statistics in Victoria Law’s eight-year study, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles Of Incarcerated Women, the following fact will make your jaw drop: the number of incarcerated women in United States prisons has almost doubled from 68,468 to 104,848 between 1995 and 2004.

Like their male counterparts, this population of women is overwhelmingly comprised of African Americans and Latinas, which can be largely attributed to racial profiling—not, as popular mythology might su
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommended
A while back, I wrote about how frustrating it was that people were not paying attention to the prison hunger strikes in California and elsewhere. But as little attention as men's resistance gets, women's resistance gets even less. And while it is true that there are many more men than women in prison, it is also true that, per the sentencing project:

The number of women in prison, a third of whom are incarcerated for drug offenses, is increasing at nearly double the rate for men. These women oft
Alan Mills
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent book for those new to the topic. Law mixes startling statistics (the number of women in prison DOUBLED in recent years), and tells some great anecdotes about how women are both abused, and marginalized, even compared to the terrible treatment given male prisoners. However, digging through the anecdotes, what becomes clear is that with two big exceptions, there is very little resistance behind bars by women.

The two exceptions--scattered throughout the book, and thus not as clear as they
This book had me in tears at many points. It really brought the injustice done to women in prison to light: including such horrific acts as shackling pregnant women during childbirth, sexual assault, differentiating power plays, poor healthcare, and the refusal to acknowledge transgender women as women, ultimately leading to rape and HIV-related preventable deaths. I would love if everyone read this book, if just to learn about the monstrosity that is the American penal system.
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: references
Loved this book. Recommended for anyone interested in prison abolition, activism, working with women prisoners and/or even those who want to learn more about the subjects. I will definitely reread and am excited to use this as a reference for my semester project and possible future projects.
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book opened my eyes to the day-to-day devastation that incarceration inflicts upon women and the myriad of ways women have resisted a system that seems to strive to destroy them physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am particularly thankful for the new section included "A Note on Transgender, Transsexual, Intersex and Gender-Variant People in Prison" as well as the section on resistance in immigration facilities as there is practically nothing known about their experiences with incarcera ...more
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It does a great job of capturing the diverse ways, both large and small, that women in prison resist the daily injustices they are faced with. The stories of resistance are given context with a thoughtful presentation of what those injustices look like, both through statistics and through personal stories.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The reality that women face in prison often go unheard. This book not only shines a light on the harsh, inhumane conditions that are inherent to imprisonment, but the ways in which women have resisted them.
A powerful and accessible read that also provides resources for further involvement. While the experiences of some incarcerated women surface repeatedly throughout the book, this work emphasizes the many movements and works done by incarcerated women and their allies nationwide without relying on the heroine narrative of one or two extraordinary individuals.

Right from the get go, Law must combat sexist ideology on what women do and do not do, can and cannot do. It's not that the protests and or
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hi wow amazing!! the facts were not surprising (we all know prison abuses its inmates and is totally destructive of society, racist, classist, all that) but striking to see them laid out one after the other.
And yet there’s such hope here of women (including a now additional chapter on trans women) advocating for themselves, giving so much for others, sharing resources, providing the love that these prisoners usually find no where else in their lives.
Especially cool to me was the last chapter on
Ryan Hartman
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another book that I should have read years ago. Even for someone as deep in prison abolition work as I am, there was still some shocking statistics in this study. My only complaint was that it was out of date, which obviously isn't the author's fault ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I love the overall message of the book, it is extremely repetitive and could have been arranged better.
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great starting off point for those who are, like me, new to the subject of prison reform/replacement and the issues within prisons. Some of the language is a little out-dated, obviously, but there is an effort to be inclusive (there was an added chapter about immigration detainment centers as well as how trans people are being treated in prisons).
Apr 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women is a premier effort to increase the visibility of women’s prison resistance in the United States. Victoria Law has dedicated much of her life to prisoners’ resistance, honing in on the lack of discussion about the specific plight that women face in prison, and their efforts to challenge the prison system. Law started off self-publishing prisoners’ stories in zines and circulating them in publications like Clamor, Punk Planet, and off ou ...more
Gregory Nipper
Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Anyone interested in this excellent book should be sure to get the new 2nd printing (with the large handcuff on the cover; on GoodReads here:
It's been expanded and improved considerably, updating many of the facts, statistics, references, community organizations and recommended readings throughout the book. It also has a new epilogue and a brand-new chapter on "Transgender, Transsexual, Intersex and Gender-Variant People in Prison."
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although this book is not particularly well-written, it is very interesting. It was an eye-opening read that gives the reader a lot to think about, far beyond the topic of resistance by women prisoners.
Black Bibliophile
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Super informative. Very telling. It was an amazing read, I read the second edition first, and ill read the first edition second. Its a essential component of educating oneself about prison labor, especially regarding the treatment of women and grassroots prisoner organizing among female inmates.
Samantha Onorato
brilliant book that sheds some much needed light on the struggles of incarcerated women. I also love that Law has a list of resources for scholars, activists, and anyone who wants to take a stand against the sexist, racist, transphobic prison industrial complex
Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Bleeding Heart" comes to mind. ...more
Feb 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Interesting exploration into the fundamental causes and reasons of the differences between men's and women's prisons and prisoners. ...more
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
fucking important
J. Rogue
Aug 25, 2009 marked it as to-read
Vikki is awesome, I can't wait to read this! ...more
Jess Morabito
Mar 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting, but not entirely well-written.
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Coralville Librar...: Resistance Behind Bars 1 3 Jan 11, 2012 12:16PM  

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