This week we will examine how the social institutions of the family and the prison system interact. On Tuesday, we will watch the documentary War on the Family: Mothers in Prison and the Children They Leave Behind and be reading two chapters from the companion book.

In chapter 1: “Collateral Damage in the War on Drugs,” we are presented with an overview on how the war on drugs has impacted low-income families of color in the U.S. After Regan’s mid-1980s war on drugs, imprisonment rates skyrocketed, especially for women of color. What are the backgrounds of these women who have filled the prisons? They have often experienced sexual abuse, extreme poverty, homelessness, inadequate education, drug addiction, and low wage employment. While institutional structures contribute to these women’s unfortunate situations, there are few institutional solutions proposed to get these families out of poverty and the cycle of incarceration.

In chapter 5: “Expendable Bodies, Racialized Policies,” the author describes the ways in which African-American women’s rate of imprisonment at the state level increased 828%, which Golden describes as a sign that they were unfairly targeted and expendable. Compared against a white and middle class ideal of motherhood, poor African-American women are often portrayed as unfit mothers. Through this creation and demonization of the “crack addicted mother” stereotype, African-American women have been stigmatized and blamed for poverty, rather than the victims of structural race, gender, and class oppression.

In class on Thursday, we will have a discussion about the documentary, the readings, as well as the outside information that you find. Please bring laptops to class and/or look up information before class.

We should be prepared to answer some of these questions for class:

1. How does the U.S. handle the issue of drug addiction? What are court ordered rehab programs like, compared against programs aimed at middle-class, insured individuals? How are pregnant women treated in rehab?

2. How do other social institutions and social issues interact with incarceration rates (i.e., poverty, race, class, sexuality, immigration status, etc.)?

3. How do other developed countries deal with drug addiction? How does this compare to the U.S.?

4. What are some website that fight for the rights of imprisoned mothers?

5. What is the impact of incarceration on families?

6. What are the prospects for felons after their release? What are the recidivism rates and effects?

7. What is the extend of private prisons? How do they operate compared against government prisons? Are they ethical?

8. What are the economics of the prison system? How much money do we spend on prisons and at what rate are they growing? How does this compare to education?

Be sure to take notes on the statistics mentioned in the movie and book. In class, we will try and visualize these statistics, so if you could find any relevant charts, drawings, or other visual materials, please post a link to it.

blog posting #8:

Incorporate a discussion of some themes in the assigned text. Also tell us your answer to one of the above questions with a link to further information. Be sure to cite the text in MLA format.

Further Information:

Private Prisons in the U.S.

Women in Prison and Children of Imprisoned Mothers

Justice Policy Institute

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Children’s Defense Fund (children in NY)