Against a Better Prison- Gender Resopnsiveness and the Changing T

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Wesleyan University The Honors College Against a Better Prison: Gender Responsiveness and the Changing Terrain of Abolition by Lex Horan Class of 2010 A thesis submitted to the faculty of Wesleyan University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts with Departmental Honors in the African American Studies and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Programs Middletown, Connecticut April, 2010 TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS……………………………………………………1 INTRODU
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   Wesleyan University The Honors College Against a Better Prison: Gender Responsiveness and the Changing Terrain of Abolition  by Lex Horan Class of 2010 A thesis submitted to the faculty of Wesleyan University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts with Departmental Honors in the African American Studies and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Programs Middletown, Connecticut April, 2010   T  ABLE OF C ONTENTS    A CKNOWLEDGMENTS ……………………………………………………1 I NTRODUCTION ………………………………………………...………...2 C HAPTER 1: California Prison Politics and Gender Responsiveness…...…19 C HAPTER 2: From Social Safety Net to Criminal Dragnet:   Neoliberalism and Prisons as Services………………………………….……………..…54 C HAPTER 3:    The “Graveyard of Good Intentions:” The Reformism of Gender Responsiveness.…………………………………...........................80 C HAPTER 4:   Looking Forward: Strategies from the Campaign Against Gender Responsiveness………………………………………………….105 C ONCLUSION …………………………………………………………….134 B IBLIOGRAPHY  …………………………………………………………...141  1  A  CKNOWLEDGMENTS   First and foremost my deepest gratitude and love go to my family: my parents, whose support and enthusiasm for me and the things I care about have never wavered, and  Ashley, my sister and best friend, for a lifetime of teaching me how to ask good questions.  This project has been possible because of the profound caring of my friends, loves, and comrades. Mollie McFee and Lizzie Busch: without a home that feeds me I couldn’t have done this. You have kept me grounded, loved me hard, and helped me finish. Sylvia Ryerson: grappling side by side with our parallel projects has been an immense honor.  Your intellectual bravery has set a powerful example. Sarah Abbott: you have helped sustain me beyond this project. This work is better for it, and so am I. Jessie Spector: our conversations and your insights have shaped this work in ways I can’t begin to point out.  You have seen me through this project and this place from the very beginning. Stacie Szmonko: Your personal, political, and intellectual support have been tireless, challenging, and enthusiastic at all the right times. You pushed me to make this the project that it needed to be.  Tremendous thanks to the crew of people who helped me edit—Lizzie, Jessie, Stacie, Erin Edwards, Elana Baurer, and everyone in FGSS Senior Seminar. I owe more than thanks to the thirteen people I interviewed: Hakim Anderson, Marie Bandrup, Madalin Bloxson, Cynthia Chandler, Cookie Concepción, Shawn Goode, Beverly Henry, Georgia Horton, Vanessa Huang, Zundre Johnson, Alex Lee, Robin Levi, and Ari Wohlfeiler. Your sharp analysis and deep commitment form the foundation for this project. A special thanks to everyone at Justice Now for facilitating my research last summer:  Thanks to Professor Anu Sharma for years of insisting that I push my work a little further, and for modeling politically committed scholarship. Thank you to Professor Gina Ulysse for always calling on me to bring a wholer version of myself. It has been an honor to slowly piece together this thesis with my advisor, Professor Demetrius Eudell. Thank you for constantly asking that I be bold enough to look to the foundations.  This project is dedicated to the builders, fighters, and visionaries of abolitionist movements, who have called me to the task of imagining a world without cages and  walls.  2 I NTRODUCTION   “A more productive version of feminism would…seriously consider the proposition that the institution [of state punishment] as a whole—gendered as it is—calls for the kind of critique that might lead us to consider its abolition.” -Angela Y. Davis,  Are Prisons Obsolete?    This project is a critique of gender responsiveness, a criminological theory that argues that the real needs of women in prison are not being met because the philosophies behind contemporary prison practices are based on an assumed male prisoner. Gender responsiveness arrived in the hotly contested arena of California prison politics in 2005 and quickly morphed into a prison expansion plan to build 4,500 new  women’s prison beds in “better,” “more effective” prisons. For California anti-prison activists, gender responsiveness presented an unsettling—if not unpredictable—shift.  The proposal called for new prisons claiming to be community reentry facilities. Liberal legislators claimed to speak for people in women’s prisons when they advocated for this expansion.  While the fierce opposition to gender responsive expansion drew on lessons from prior anti-expansionist campaigns, this organizing also engineered new perspectives on the nature of the prison industrial complex (defined below) and the politics of its ongoing expansion. My project takes the knowledge mobilized and produced in this campaign as a starting point for a contextualization and critique of gender responsiveness. I am interested broadly in the conditions that enabled the emergence of gender responsiveness. Specifically, how did the arc of twenty-five years of California prison expansion—which might be very cautiously read as finally grinding to a slow halt since 2005—lead to the proposal of non-traditional, gender responsive prisons? How is gender responsiveness compatible with the political, economic, and ideological structures
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