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date: 09 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This essay reviews ways in which gender influences the pathway into prison, structures the lived realities of the punishment experience, and shapes the consequences of a prison stay once released. It focuses on gender in the context of the prison boom in the United States and, to a lesser extent, Europe. While women still comprise a relatively small portion of the total prison population, the rate of increase in women’s imprisonment has been much larger than that of men. These rates of confinement for men and women are put in context through a discussion of how the politics of mass imprisonment—a shift aimed largely at minority males—drove up the rates of incarceration for both men and women. The essay uses rehabilitative programming and prison violence as salient examples of how gender structures the lived reality of prison life. It concludes by discussing some of the challenges associated with “gender-sensitive” rehabilitative programming and the policy implications suggested by this review.

Keywords: gender, incarceration, prison, sex, rehabilitation

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