In Breaking Women, Jill McCorkel reveals a systematic disempowerment of women that takes place within the penal system in the form of privately run drug treatment programs. McCorkel shares her findings by
beginning with a 1990s political climate that focused on the "get tough" campaign regarding the U.S. penal system. She points out that the gender constructs within our society lead to two approaches to "get tough": Men
are presented as rational actors who intentionally commit crimes while women are viewed as mentally unfit victims who are vulnerable to risky men and poor relationship choices. The author reports that many prison
officials refused to acknowledge "get tough" as a reasonable method with respect to female offenders since it does not appeal to the nature of their gender construct. This attitude resulted in the use of privately led
rehabilitation programs for women as opposed to the strictly controlled environments encouraged for male offenders.
While use of rehabilitative efforts might make it appear that female offenders have a more hopeful future in comparison to male offenders, McCorkel intends to prove that these privately run programs
perpetuate a control over women by "breaking them down." McCorkel identifies this process as the feminine version of the "get tough" crusade. The author explains her theory through the examination of influential
decisions made by state actors, the prison resource crisis, and psychical dilemmas within prisons. A careful evaluation of damaging "habilitative" control strategies and the consequences of this new correction method
exposes a mechanism that continues the insubordination of women.
The every day life of the institutionalized has always been a source of fasc...
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... arenas upon their release from
The biggest irony of this book is not that the women described here fail, or remain at the bottom--sex discrimination within societal structure has already been doing that since the beginning of time. The most
astonishing revelation is that these privatized programs, which appeared to instill more promise in female offenders, and "go easy" on them in comparison to male offenders did just the opposite. These degrading,
haphazardly designed programs pointed female offenders back in the misguided direction that they originated from while only achieving a political goal of temporarily alleviating the prison population problem. Politicians
were rewarded with a "cure" to the prison overpopulation problem created by their own foolish and boastful legislative language--and female offenders were the ones who paid the price.