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date: 16 December 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses theories of the prison from the 1930s to the present and the contribution of feminist scholarship to understanding power relations in criminal punishment. The central issue in this literature is how imprisonment shapes identities and inequalities, including gender, class, and race. Feminist scholars show that prison regimes impose restrictive gender norms that encourage normative gender expression and disadvantage those who do not comply. The penal system is also shaped by gender stereotypes about crime. Women are often seen as in need of protection from male criminals by the state-legitimated violence of male police and prison guards, which can further subordinate women while reinforcing violent forms of masculinity. Intersectional feminist analysis also demonstrates that prisons uphold class and racial hierarchy, which particularly harms women of color. This literature raises questions about how effectively prison systems protect women, and suggests that prisons may reinforce male dominance.

Keywords: prison, violence, inequality, gender, race, intersectionality

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