Anyone interested in issues surrounding women’s incarceration should be aware of Northern Arizona University sociologist Kathleen Ferraro’s work. Her 2006 book Neither Angels Nor Demons: Women, Crime, and Victimization (Northeastern) is an incredibly important contribution to the debate. (It was even reviewed, by your friendly neighborhood blogger, no less, in the Lawston-and-Lucas-edited issue of NWSA Journal that became, after much labor, Razor Wire Women.) Her most recent book is Women’s Lives. Her work is devoted to showing the complexity of the paths by which women become subject to the criminal-justice system: being physically forced to participate in illegal activity; killing an abuser/stalker/potential murderer after repeated refusals by local police to enforce restraining orders; etc. The stories she tells almost always belie the extremely simple terms by which we then refer to these women: murderers, inmates, trash. Ferraro’s work reveals such women as neither angels nor demons, but people.
(Tongue-in-cheek aside: If Ferraro ever wishes to study male antisocial behavior, she could do worse than turn her keen sociologist’s attention to the law enforcement professionals and legislature of the state where she lives and teaches. Their bizarre and aggressive behavior shows a much more profound resistance to explanation than most acts committed by women in prison.)
(Second tongue-in-cheek aside: I bet Kathleen Ferraro hears that joke a lot.)