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Is one show of independence more valid than another?

HSBurke's picture

Before I'd even finished reading Offending Women, I was already caught up in thinking how I would have done it better (now I’m potentially falling into this trap of damage-based thinking…). Alliance, as Haney made clear, was riddled with problems. Something I found particularly interesting, however, was the way in which Alliance's shortcomings did more to promote independence within the young women than the actual program did. Their initiative to ban together and instigate change within the institution demonstrates just the type of self-dependency that Alliance aims for, but for all the wrong reasons. It's ironic, then, that the groups butted heads so much just because the avenues through which these women displayed their independence were misaligned with the expectations of Alliance. I was also saddened by the women's whole-hearted confidence in the ability for welfare to be able to provide for them once they got out. I think this dependence speaks again to the need for structure that was demonstrated when the women fought against the constant schedule changes they encountered in the facility. Not necessarily a sign of laziness in my opinion, depending on welfare as a steady constant presence for these women would much less stressful than trying to find an employer who will take them in despite the inevitable black mark of a felony. It almost makes sense that Welfare Queens (to borrow from couldn'tthinkofanoriginalname and Chandrea) are born from these young women. However, especially after the presentation last night, I see the value of programs like YASP. If these women who have "graduated" from Alliance were able to be funneled into a paid job that fought to keep others out of these institutions that they hated so much, or even to encourage reform in these institutions, these women might be able to be off welfare, off the streets and helping to change a system that they struggled through. 



Chandrea's picture

I'm glad I wasn't the only

I'm glad I wasn't the only one that was disappointed by the women's confidence in our welfare system to support them once they were released. While I thought Rachel Brennan's explanation of the importance of government and its role was condescending to the women, I'd like to think that she meant well. Self sufficiency is highly valued in our country and we're big on this idea of rugged individualism, but acheving this status is difficult for incarcerated women. Alliance was using scare tactics by telling the women that "Your children will be mothered by the government." Although the wording of this was a bit harsh, I wonder if it was effective. If I were an incarcerated mother and they threatened me with this visual of a faceless, scary government that would come knocking at my door to take my children away, I'd wanna get my act together. And fast.

What I thought was strange was that they were telliing the women not to depend on the government, but they seemed fine telling them to depend on the staff of Alliance to tell them what's best. It didn't seem like they were allowing them to try being independent on their own.

I'm so fascinated with the term "welfare queen." I'm so used to hearing these terms and didn't realize until now how racist and sexist it is...