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

About the Book

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.

As Michelle Alexander writes in her foreword: “These are personal narratives not only of suffering, but of human dignity and survival against all the odds. Hope flickers, even through recollections of painful childhoods, poverty, and domestic and institutional abuse. It is this hope that allows us to envision a way out, a path toward a more forgiving, compassionate, and caring society, one that attempts to solve social ills and improve the lives of our most vulnerable rather than sweeping them behind bars.”

Narrators Include:

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.

About the Editors & Foreword Author:

Ayelet Waldman is the bestselling author of Love and Other Impossible PursuitsDaughter’s KeeperRed Hook RoadBad Mother, and, most recently Love and Treasure. She has also written for the New York TimesVogue, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

Robin Levi is a consultant working in the field of human rights, and she is the former human rights director at Justice Now. While a staff attorney at the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, she documented sexual abuse of women in U.S. state prisons.

Michelle Alexander is an associate professor of law at Ohio State University, a civil rights advocate and writer. She is best known for her 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Praise for Inside This Place, Not of It:

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

Related Resources

View the Lesson Plans
The lessons use oral history to promote a nuanced understanding of the injustices faced by those within women’s prisons in the US.
Book Club Discussion Questions
Use these questions to encourage meaningful discussions about the book.
Review in Ms. Magazine
Read a review of the book in Ms. Magazine.
Interview on WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show
Listen to a conversation with the editors on WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show.

Media Coverage