Synopses & Reviews
"In Cant Catch a Break
Sered and Norton-Hawk offer the reader a vital glimpse into the chaotic, desperate, and depressing lives of the women that have been criminalized by our ill advised war on drugs. The number of women in prison, a third of whom are incarcerated for drug offenses, has increased eightfold since the eighties. Only rarely do those outside of the various systems that police the poor, get to see beyond the numbers appreciate the blending of health problems, homelessness, poverty and drug addiction that afflicts the lives women we spend billions to jail and imprison. The vivid portraits the authors paint are compelling, making us all ask, as the authors do, have prisons become the way that America deals with suffering? A must read."
Meda Chesney-Lind, Ph.D.,Professor and Chair of Womens Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa
"This compelling and important book deserves to be widely read."
"Compelling . . . engaging . . . a thorough yet concise testament to the social inequalities that drive mass incarceration."
"The authors convincingly show that the fragmented way we attempt to help poor criminalized women is not working."
"By the time youve finished the book, plaguing questions about how ‘America deals with human suffering (p. 3) unsettles you to the point youre almost forced in to action."
"In the hands of Sered and Norton-Hawk, the politics of personal story insist that the reader consider the woman storyteller as real and whole, a person who must be heard. The authors give her space and allow her a history so that her story is round and complicated—not salaciously sensationalized.; Can't Catch a Break is an activistdemand for the full personhood of the Boston women and their human rights."
Based on five years of fieldwork in Boston, Cant Catch a Break documents the day-to-day lives of forty women as they struggle to survive sexual abuse, violent communities, ineffective social and therapeutic programs, discriminatory local and federal policies, criminalization, incarceration, and a broad cultural consensus that views suffering as a consequence of personal flaws and bad choices. Combining hard-hitting policy analysis with an intimate account of how marginalized women navigate an unforgiving world, Susan Sered and Maureen Norton-Hawk shine new light on the deep and complex connections between suffering and social inequality.
About the Author
Susan Starr Sered
is Professor of Sociology and Senior Researcher at the Center for Women's Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University in Boston. She is the author of Uninsured in America: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity.
Read more about the women in Can't Catch a Break
and Susan's research on her blog at http://susan.sered.name/blog/.
Maureen Norton-Hawk is Professor of Sociology and Codirector of the Center for Crime and Justice Policy Research at Suffolk University in Boston. She has published widely in the field of women and prostitution.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
1. Joey Spit on Me”: How Gender Inequality and Sexual Violence Make Women Sick
2. Nowhere to Go”: Poverty, Homelessness, and the Limits of Personal Responsibility
3. The Little Rock of the North”: Race, Gender, Class, and the Consequences of Mass Incarceration
4. Suffer the Women: Pain and Perfection in a Medicalized World
5. Its All in My Head”: Suffering, PTSD, and the Triumph of the Therapeutic
6. Higher Powers: The Unholy Alliance of Religion, Self-Help Ideology, and the State
7. Suffer the Children”: Fostering the Caste of the Ill and Afflicted
8. Gender, Drugs, and Jail: A System Designed for Us to Fail”
Conclusion: The Real Questions and a Blueprint for Moving Forward
Appendix: Methodology and Project Participant Overview