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Publisher's Summary

Through oral histories, interviews, embedded observation, and research, the daily struggles of women returning to life after incarceration and concrete solutions to the seemingly hopeless issue.

At the end of 2019 in the United States, women comprised the fastest growing population within the criminal justice system. Despite this fact, their journey through this system has not received extensive attention; it is only beginning to be documented. As a result, the impact of women’s incarceration and reentry - both on their own lives and in the lives of their children and their families - is neither well understood nor effectively confronted.

Sociologist Jorja Leap argues that all aspects of these women’s journey must be illuminated to fully grasp the issues. Leap explores first the traumas girls and women suffer, then the particular challenges faced by women in the criminal justice system, in incarceration, and throughout the reentry process. Leap tells the stories of women who suffer childhood abuse and neglect, including for example, Clara, who suffered twice - once as a child within the welfare system and then as a mother whose children were removed from her care and placed within the system - highlighting the ways the system fails women in particular. She finds that the lack of reentry programs is directly related to rates of recidivism, concluding that the cycle of trauma is the embedded in the system of reentry.

Having spent countless hours embedded in the reentry programs that do currently exist, including Susan Burton's A New Way of Life, Leap tells the dramatic stories of many women caught in the system, She closes with several future-facing chapters. The experiences of formerly incarcerated women must be translated into lasting structural change through the development of meaningful programs and policies. Leap delves into pilot programs that offer meaningful models for changing the cycles of abuse and trauma in the lives of women.

©2022 Jorja Leap (P)2022 Beacon Press

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