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sara.gladwin's picture

The section of Offending Women made me really angry. I had been angered before at some of the problematic aspects of both the programs that the author was assessing but this chapter struck me as particularly problematic. Many of the practices that were to get women to “open up” seemed almost like some kind of psychological torture, forcing the inmates into hysteria without any real way to build them back up. I was disturbed by the way in which the social aspects of their traumas/stories were ignored to draw focus on the ways in which their “addictive” personalities led to them being imprisoned… It seemed almost violent to the minds and hearts of these women to force them to relive their stories and then place the blame entirely on them for their situation. I was also really angry when Haney was describing the search through the women’s belongings. There was a complete lack of boundaries and privacy, both of which I think people are entitled to. Especially when they went through the women’s things and threw out what the institution had decided were not “necessities.” One of the women had saved up shampoos and toiletries for when she leaves; probably knowing full well what its like not to have money and no access to those things. The staff member cleaning out her room laughed. She laughed, without even bothering to address why that inmate would’ve felt that she needed to stock up on toiletries in the first place. I feel like this example very clearly illustrates the gap between what the staff thought the women needed and what the women thought they needed: there was almost no recognition among the staff of the difficulties these women would face upon being released, while some of the women already knew they would need to find a way of providing for themselves and their children.

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Hummingbird's picture

I agree...

sara.gladwin, you and I talked about this a little bit this afternoon, and I completely agree with what you've said. I also felt incredibly uncomfortable about the Visions program – I think even more so than I did with the Alliance program. The fact that this "treatment" not only had an affect on the women in the program, but also on their children was really upsetting for me. Visions was so incredibly invasive, I have a hard time seeing how anyone could function there without breaking down.

When I think now, though, on how hard it was to read about the lack of privacy and constant openness, I wonder whether my own cultural bias makes it harder for me to accept. The idea that we have a right to privacy is a very American concept. Culturally and historically, we value our space and private property. When Visions took this away from the women, it seemed particularly drastic compared to the level of privacy we (as Americans) expect. I wonder whether this would have seemed as big a deal if I were from a country where this expectation of privacy is not so strong. Can anyone else in the class speak to this?

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