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A Woman Doing Life

Notes from a Prison for Women

Erin George, Edited by Robert Johnson, and Afterword by Joycelyn Pollock

Publication Date - January 2010

ISBN: 9780199734757

208 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $34.95

The only book that tells stories of women in prison from the inside out


A Woman Doing Life is the only book that tells stories of women in prison from the inside out. Author and inmate Erin George draws a vivid and uniquely raw portrait of female life in prison, detailing her own responses to incarceration as well as her observations of prison relationships, death and sickness, reactions from friends and family, and even "cooking" in prison. The text also features poignant stories from other female inmates.

Edited by Robert Johnson--esteemed scholar and editor of Victor Hassine's Life Without Parole, Fourth Edition (OUP, 2009)--each chapter of the text opens with a helpful introduction that guides students as they read. An Afterword by noted scholar Joycelyn Pollock further helps place inmate testimonies into an academic context.

Offering profound insight into the too-often neglected issue of women in the criminal justice system, A Woman Doing Life is a must for courses in women and crime, gender and crime, and women in prison.

About the Author(s)

Erin George is an inmate at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Virginia, where she is serving a life sentence for murder.

Robert Johnson is Professor of Justice, Law, and Society in the School of Public Affairs at American University. He has published extensively on prison and the death penalty, and is the editor of Victor Hassine's Life Without Parole, Fourth Edition (OUP, 2009).


"George presents a realistic portrayal of life faced on a daily basis by women in prison. She addresses both the physical issues they face as well as the very real psychological challenges. She gives a voice to those women often forgotten or dismissed by society. The book goes from heartbreaking and tragic to humorous and uplifting as George describes how the women manage and cope in this unimaginable situation. . . . She shows the humanity of the women in prison as they try to negotiate their daily lives, deal with all they have lost, and come to terms with their crimes."--Heather Melton, University of Utah

"I don't think we have ever had such a vivid and compelling book-length account of one woman's experiences and observations in jail and in prison. . . . Robert Johnson's presentation of Erin George's A Woman Doing Life may very well be his most important contribution so far to this species of scholarship. As in Life Without Parole, Johnson's editing is superb and his brief essays preceding each chapter place the prisoners' stories and recollections in a meaningful sociological or historical context. . . . The book's pedagogical approach is virtually flawless."--Ken Haas, University of Delaware

"I absolutely love this book. . . . George's writing is excellent. The content would undoubtedly deepen my students' understanding of the plight of women in prison. It would go far to debunk myths about the lives of women in prison and to clarify and expand upon the little information provided in media outlets about women inmates and offenders."--Hillary Potter, University of Colorado-Boulder

Table of Contents

    Introduction, Robert Johnson

    Chapter One: Jail Time
    Chapter Two: Prison Time
    Chapter Three: Love in a Cold Climate
    Chapter Four: Violence Behind Bars
    Chapter Five: Shakedowns, Fakedowns, and Solitary Confinement
    Chapter Six: Quality of Life (Loosely Defined)
    Chapter Seven: Living with Loss
    Chapter Eight: Programs and Privileges
    Chapter Nine: The Sick and the Dead
    Chapter Ten: Looking Out and Looking Back
    Chapter Eleven: Other Voices, Other Venues

    "Origami Heart," a poem by Erin George

    Afterword, Joycelyn Pollock

    Appendix A: Terms of Engagement: A Prison Glossary
    Appendix B: A Prison Cookbook

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