Activists, academics, and prisoners shed light on male hierarchy in prison and in society
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edited by Don Sabo, Terry A. Kupers and Willie London
This book explores the frightening ways our prisons mirror the worst aspects of society-wide gender relations. It is part of the growing research on men and masculinities. The collection is unusual in that it combines contributions from activists, academics, and prisoners.
The opening section, which features an essay by Angela Davis, focuses on the historical roots of the prison system, cultural practices surrounding gender and punishment, and the current expansion of corrections into the "prison-industrial complex."
The next section examines the dominant or subservient roles that men play in prison and the connections between this hierarchy and male violence. Another section looks at the spectrum of intimate relationships behind bars, from rape to friendship, and another at physical and mental health.
The last section is about efforts to reform prisons and prison masculinities, including support groups for men. It features an essay about prospects for post-release success in the community written by a man who, after doing time in Soledad and San Quentin, went on to get a doctorate in counseling.
The contributions from prisoners include an essay on enforced celibacy by Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as fiction and poetry on prison health policy, violence, and intimacy. The creative contributions were selected from the more than 200 submissions received from prisoners.
"The enforced sequestration of men and women results in hard time, and invites adaptive responses that can often be unseemly, ugly, and destructive. This book shows how male prisons have becme stages for the display and posturing of caricatured masculinity, including the victimization of vulnerable fellow-prisoners. The contribution is impotant, timely, and challenging."
"...an intricate puzzle piece to anyone wishing to comprehend the byproducts of American culture and the criminal justice system."
"This sobering collection of essays, scientific findings, poems and heart-breaking testimonials paints a picture of a prison system held hostage by troubled masculinity."
"Prison Masculinities provides an insightful look at the way that masculinity circulates in prisons and on the street. ...a long overdue examination of the hypermasculinity adopted within prisons in response to the fact that prisons are intended, among other things, to emasculate inmates. ... This book is a call to arms to not only re-examine the oppressive structures of prison, but to look at prisons as a microcosm of a society that has perverted the definition of manhood, so that it has come to oppress not only women, but men as well."
Read a review essay from Criminal Law Forum, Volume 12 (2001), written by Ian O'Donnell (pdf).
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Historical Roots and Contemporary Trends
Part III: The Social Construction of Prison Masculinities
Part IV: Sexualities, Sexual Violence, and Intimacy in Prison
Part V: Menís Health in Prison
Part VI: Prison Reform, Reforming Prison Masculinities
For Further Reading
Don Sabo, Professor of Social Sciences at D'Youville College in Buffalo, is author or editor of five books, most recently, with David Gordon, Men's Health and Illness: Gender, Power, and the Body and, with Michael Messner, Sex, Violence, and Power in Sports: Rethinking Masculinity. Sabo has appeared on The Today Show, Oprah, and Donahue.
Terry A. Kupers, M.D., a psychiatrist, teaches at the Wright Institute in Berkeley. He is the author of four books, editor of a fifth. His latest books are Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It and Revisioning Men's Lives: Gender, Intimacy, and Power. Kupers has served as an expert witness in more than a dozen cases on conditions of confinement and mental health services.
Willie London, a published poet, is General Editor of the prison publication Elite Expressions. He is currently an inmate at Eastern Corrections. For nine years he was a prisoner at Attica.