Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons


Edited by Ayelet Waldman and Robin Levi

Foreword by Michelle Alexander

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You can download free curriculum for this book here.


Inside This Place, Not of It reveals some of the most egregious human rights violations within women’s prisons in the United States. In their own words, the thirteen narrators in this book recount their lives leading up to incarceration and their experiences inside– ranging from forced sterilization and shackling during childbirth, to physical and sexual abuse by prison staff. Together, their testimonies illustrate the harrowing struggles for survival that women in prison must endure. Among the narrators:

Irma Rodriguez, who spent years believing her health and life were in danger, being aggressively treated with a variety of medications for a disease she never had. Only once she was released from prison did her doctors inform her that the incompetent prison medical bureaucracy had misdiagnosed her with HIV.

Anna Jacobs, who repeatedly warned prison guards about a suicidal cellmate, but the guards refused to take any action. After the woman killed herself, Anna was retaliated against and intimidated when she tried to tell investigators about the guards’ refusal to prevent the death.

Teri Hancock, who was sentenced to 16 – 50 years for aiding and abetting a robbery when she was only 17. Teri was raped at the age of 19 by a 44 year old prison guard. The rapes continued for more than three years with the knowledge and assistance of other guards.



“The Awful Truth About Women’s Lives in Prison” (Ms. Magazine, 10/24/2011)

“Narratives from Women’s Prisons” (WNYC: The Leonard Lopate Show, 2/8/2012)

“The Real-Life Stories Behind ‘Orange Is the New Black’” (TakePart, 6/12/2014)

Inside This Place, Not of It is essential reading for anyone interested in the stories of women who compel us to see their humanity, tenacity, and value as people. That the woman who share their stories here have lived within the vast U.S. criminal justice system reveals a hidden and heart-wrenching reality. Their voices insist that the civil and human rights abuses that take place daily behind the walls of our prisons and jails must be out in the open to be recognized and remedied.” —Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black

This is an incredibly important, urgently readable book. I stayed up all night with these forgotten women, who have encountered, in present-day America, levels of cruelty and humiliation that have somehow not undercut their ability to express themselves with verve and grace and dignity.” —Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers

Inside This Place, Not Of It is precisely the kind of book we need now. In reading these narratives—so skillfully assembled, and with the accompanying statistics and data which let readers see how America and its states are complicit in taking away lives and dignity from so many women—what stands out is the poignant sense of abandonment and sadness that changed their lives from childhood, and the astonishing strength and perseverance that let them survive in prison. I will never forget these women, or this book.” —Susan Straight, author of Take One Candle Light A Room

“I am passionately, ardently grateful for the existence of this book. How else would I have ever heard the voices of these women? Where would I gain insight or understanding of the lives they describe: harrowing, riveting, rife with misogyny, and utterly unacceptable in a country that values human rights.” —Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture

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To read an excerpt from Irma’s narrative, click here.