Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!


sdane's picture

I’m having a really hard time coming terms with the Alliance program described in “Offending Women” in relation to the YASP presentation last night.  Clearly, the dependency discourse promulgated at Alliance is problematic, particularly when it is clear that these ideas don’t exist in isolation, but are shared by many important policy makers.  What strikes me as particularly strange is that there is a real focus on rejecting “dependency,” but no talk about independence.  In other words, the staff at Alliance (and I’m sure many people share this focus) discuss the ways in which state dependence, such as receiving welfare, is problematic, but don’t illustrate what being independent would look like.  The youth from YASP seemed to be incredibly independent and successful post-incarceration – they are holding part-time jobs, waging an important political campaign, and doing amazing work in both schools and prisons.  I have no idea if they’re “dependent” in the sense of receiving government benefits, but I can see their independence through their actions.  I also think this issue of viewing incarcerated or institutionalized individuals (or “criminals”) as passive, rather than active citizens, plays into larger themes in our course.  For instance, we tell drug dealers or sex workers that what they are doing is illegal – and that they need to stop doing it – but rarely explain why or provide alternative ways they can support themselves or their families. 



Sharaai's picture

Knowledge: A Positive Platform?

I could not agree more with what Dan and sdane are saying about the Alliance program and the problematic scheme they approach their program with (which is what ended up dooming the program in the end). I do remember reading Offending Women and feeling so confused about the alliance program and wondering if they were going about alternative incarceration in the right way. I totally understand their want to release these women from their dependence on their governemet, but they did lack a plan on how to educate the women to be inpendent. One example of this is the baby food. I know of noone who "grinds" up their child's food because it is cheaper, and this just felt so far fetched. Related to the YASP event, how come alternative incarcetation programs focus on ways to be independent and informed on the situation you are in. Like it is said often, "Knowledge is Power". Knowledge could have been a postivive platform for the women spoken about in Offending Women.

Dan's picture

Alliance's promotion of

Alliance's promotion of independence from government aid was interesting and complicated. We are so deeply rooted in the society we live in. Our lives, our successes or failures, are largely due to what we have access to and how society views us. Therefore, to encourage women to be "independent" of government aid feels simplistic. Yes, they should probably be taught skills that would enable them to thrive or simply survive in ways that those in power deem "acceptable" or legal. But, I think Sdane makes a really key point. How can you demand someone be independent unless you show them explicitly what that looks like. No person in American society is truly independent. Our food systems, education, employment, energy consumption, etc. are all entertwined and very very few people have any of the skills to free themselves of those entanglements. "Independence" isn't the right word.

 It has been articulated in many forms already, and Sara (from YASP) as well as one of the men in YASP's documentary spoke to it last night. Time spent critiquing and analzying the flaws in the punishment system would be better examining the circumstances from which crimes are produced.