The annual conferences for the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) and the American Sociological Association (ASA) both took place in Las Vegas, Nevada, this week. The irony that we were speaking about gendered forms of oppression in a city known for its rampant, public exploitation of women’s bodies did not escape us. Talking about incarcerated women and their families in Las Vegas feels like talking about workers’ rights while being at a decadent party thrown by the owners of sweatshops.
That said, each of these sociology conferences hosted a handful of panels related to incarceration and quite a few on the subject of women’s rights. We are honored to be among those present at the SSSP and the ASA who link our scholarly work to activist and community efforts for social change, and we were particularly inspired by the graduate students who told us about their work as scholar/activists in sociology departments scattered across the United States. We hope that this blog and our book can serve as resources for them as they continue their studies, activism, and teaching.
One of RWW’s incarcerated contributors, who I will not name here because in the book she does not disclose the location of the prison where she lives, currently resides in Las Vegas prison. Despite the fact that she was sentenced to serve time in a different state’s prison system, this woman had to be transferred to the federal system and ended up thousands of miles away from her family because she endured such severe sexual abuse by guards in her home state. As a result, this woman has not had a visit from her family in years because they cannot afford to travel such a distance to see her. As I sit in the decadent illusion of Cesar’s Palace, my thoughts are with this razor wire woman who lives in an equally unnatural structure here in the Nevada desert.