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Women Behind Bars: Gender and Race in US Prisons

Vernetta D. Young and Rebecca Reviere
Women Behind Bars: Gender and Race in US Prisons
ISBN: 978-1-58826-371-1
ISBN: 978-1-58826-395-7
ISBN: 978-1-62637-932-9
2005/219 pages/LC: 2005018306
Also of interest: Women in Prison: Gender and Social Control by Barbara H. Zaitzow and Jim Thomas and Battered Women Doing Time: Injustice in the Criminal Justice System by Rachel Zimmer Schneider

"Important and timely ... Should be required reading for anyone who is serious about preserving families.... Students of race, class, and gender will most certainly get a view of women and children in [Women Behind Bars] that is not often apparent in texts that cover those dimensions of life in the United States."—Mary Thierry Texeira, Gender & Society

"I highly recommend Women Behind Bars for criminology classes and especially for classes on women and crime."—Karen Hayden, Teaching Sociology

"The integration of race into the discussion of women and corrections is important, particularly in the classroom. This book, unlike most, does not address the issue of race as an afterthought, but instead shows its relevance by integrating it throughout."—Stephanie Bush-Baskette, Rutgers University

"This comprehensive text is a strong contribution to the study of women and incarceration. Particularly effective in terms of its focus on race, gender, and imprisonment, it should be required reading in a wide range of courses."—Barbara Bloom, Sonoma State University


Today's prisons are increasingly filled with poor, dark-skinned, single mothers locked up for low-level drug involvement—with serious ramifications for the corrections system. Women Behind Bars offers the first comprehensive exploration of the challenges faced by incarcerated women in the United States. 

Young and Reviere show conclusively that serving time in prisons designed by and for men not only does little to address what landed women, particularly women of color, there in the first place, but also undermines their prospects for an improved life on the outside. Using a multifaceted race/class/gender lens, the authors make a convincing argument that women in prison are punished twice: first by their sentences, and again because the policies that govern time behind bars were not designed to address women's unique problems and responsibilities.


Vernetta D. Young is professor of sociology at Howard University.  Rebecca Reviere is professor emerita of sociology at Howard University.


  • Equal Rights or Lost Opportunities?
  • A Brief History of Punishment.
  • Evolving Prisons and the Changing Face of Female Prisoners.
  • Drugs: Use, Abuse, and Treatment.
  • Physical and Mental Health Care.
  • Women and Children First.
  • Death and Dying.
  • We Want You Back: The Return to Society.
  • Still More Problems Than Solutions.