Article: “What are women’s prisons for?”

Amy Halliday, Chelsea Miller, and Julie Peterson, “‘What are women’s prisons for?’: Gendered states of incarceration and history as an agent for social change,” Museums & Social Issues: A Journal of Reflective Discourse 12, no. 1 (April 2017): 56-66,

As the exhibition States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Histories travels the nation, visitors will explore the roots of mass incarceration in our communities. While mass incarceration has garnered increased media and scholarly attention in recent years, mainstream analyses overlook the role of gender, even as women are the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population in the United States. This article argues that women’s incarceration and the gendered aspects of the carceral state need to become more prominent in the national narrative, and that museums and public history institutions, in partnership with local communities, have the potential to lead this effort. Archival research and oral history interviews with community activists on the ground shed light on the gendered aspects of incarceration in the United States while, at the same time, amplifying the voices of community members and activists. Doing so provides a model for how museums and public history professionals can become active participants in promoting social change.

Carceral studies, gender, Massachusetts, mass incarceration, oral history, public memory

Halliday et al, “‘What are women’s prisons for?’ Gendered states of incarceration and history as an agent for social change,” MSI 12, no. 1 (April 2017): 56-66.

We extend our gratitude to the individuals who provided their support and expertise throughout our work on this project, including: Lois Ahrens, Marianne Bullock, L. Mara Dodge, Joyce Follet, Solobia Hutchins, Mel Motel, Kathleen Nutter, Olga Pedraza, Samuel Redman, Tina Reynolds, Holly Richardson, Rachel Roth, Loretta Ross, and Christopher Tinson; and to the organizations who supported our research in a multitude of ways: the Massachusetts Statewide Harm Reduction Coalition, the Just Schools Project, the Prison Birth Project, Real Cost of Prisons Project, Voices from Inside, the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, the Humanities Action Lab at the New School, and the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. We also give many thanks to the editors of Museums & Social Issues and the two anonymous reviewers for their feedback and assistance with this article. Fellow contributors to this project from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Western Massachusetts included: Shakti Castro, Alexandria Champion, Amanda Dente, Hallie Dunlap, Olivia Ekeh, Katherine Fecteau, Jennifer Fronc, Peggy Hart, Anna Holley, Felicia Jamison, Jessica Johnson, Danny McNulty, Marla Miller, Freda Raitelu, Rebekkah Rubin, David Ruyman, Natalie Sherif, and Sean Smeland.

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