Amherst College Department of Sociology and Anthropology Sociology 36: Incarceration and The Family

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Amherst College

Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Sociology 36: Incarceration and The Family

T/Th 2pm-3:20pm

Spring 2009
Instructor: Anna Curtis


My Office Hours: TBA

Office: 204 Morgan Hall


The number of incarcerated persons in the United States has increased dramatically, almost tripling over the past twenty years. According to the Bureau of Justice, as of 2007, 762 per 100,000 United States residents are in custody; an incarceration rate higher than any other nation in the world. The penal system has, almost without public acknowledgement, become a central feature of our social order. Given this, the ways in which the penal system has become linked to and intertwined with other central institutions, not the least of which is the family, in our society has become increasingly important. We will examine policies and practices within penal institutions dealing with motherhood and fatherhood, as well as the connection between the penal system and the welfare system, in order to consider the following questions: How are fatherhood and motherhood constructed in penal facilities? In what ways do cultural assumptions about masculinity and femininity filter in, and out of, the penal system? What are the consequences for such assumptions?

course Readings

There are three required texts for the class: two books and a course packet. Additionally, assignments marked with an asterisk (*) are available on the course webpage ( on the page titled “Readings.”

The course packet is available at Collective Copies, located in Amherst at 71 South Pleasant Street. See their website for further information (
The two books are available at Food for Thought, located in Amherst at 106 N.Pleasant Street. See their website for further information (
Goffman, Erving. Asylums; essays on the social situation of mental patients and

other inmates.

Nurse, Anne. 2002. Fatherhood arrested. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

  1. Short response papers: There will be two short response papers due early on in the semester. Each response paper is worth five (5) points. (Total: 10 points)

  2. Papers: There will be two papers due. Each paper will be worth twenty-five (25) points and will be ten (10) to fifteen (15) pages in length. One will be due mid-semester and the second will be due at the end of the semester. (Total = 50 points)

  3. Presentations: A sign-up sheet will be passed around the first week of class. Students will be expected to present the readings to the class, to create a set of discussion questions, and to lead class discussion. More details will be provided in class and in a handout. (20 points)

  4. Participation: 20 points

PAPER REQUIREMENTS: The following requirements for any assignment handed in for this class. Remember to check spelling and grammar before handing in your paper. Gender-inclusive language is considered grammatically correct.

  1. Technical guidelines:

    1. Typed, stapled, and double-spaced.

    2. Using 1” margins.

    3. Using a 12-point, Times New Roman font.

  2. If you use direct quotes, or if you make references to ideas that are not your own, you must cite them. There are several acceptable methods, if you need help go to for suggestions on citations.

  3. Other things to remember:

    1. Do not use contractions in papers, unless it is part of a direct quote.

    2. Be careful when you use a thesaurus – make sure you understand the meaning of the so-called “synonym”.

    3. If you quote or draw from an article, you must provide a bibliography at the end of the long paper.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is taken very seriously. If there is any evidence that your work is not your own, the most severe action according to university policies will be pursued.
PARTICIPATION: Participation points for this class will stem from both your attendance and engaging in verbal discussions on the class material. Students are expected to contribute to class discussions. In order to do this, you will need to read assignments carefully and come to class with questions, thoughts, and comments. Attendance is mandatory.
LATE ASSIGNMENT POLICY: Assignments are due in class (with the exception of the final section paper). Assignments will lose between half a point and a point for each day they are late. I do not accept papers electronically. If you know you will be unable to attend class, I will accept hard copies before class begins either in person or placed in my mailbox in Morgan Hall.
STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: Every effort will be made to accommodate students with documented learning disabilities. Please see me on the first day of class so that we can address the issue immediately.

Reading and Assignment Schedule

Section 1: The Family and the Prison as Social Institutions

T/TH: 1/27 and 1/29
Casper, L. and Bianchi, S. (2008) “A ‘quieting’ of family change”. In Andrew Cherlin

(ed.), Public and private families: A reader (pgs. 5-13). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Cancian, F. (2008) “From role to self: The emergence of androgynous love in the 20th

century”. In Andrew Cherlin (ed.), Public and private families: A reader (pgs. 14-28). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Coontz, S. (2008) “What’s love got to do with it?: A brief history of marriage”. In Andrew

Cherlin (ed.), Public and private families: A reader (pgs. 30-35). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Lareau, A. (2008). “Invisible inequality: Social class and childrearing in Black families

and White families.” In Andrew Cherlin (ed.), Public and private families: A reader (pgs. 82-104 New York: McGraw-Hill.

T/TH: 2/3 and 2/5 [February 6th is the last day for add/drop.] [1st short assignment due Thursday February 7th.]
Goffman, Erving. 1961. Asylums; essays on the social situation of mental patients and

other inmates.

T/TH: 2/10 and 2/12

*Acker, Joan. 1990. Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A theory of gendered organizations. Gender

and Society 4, (2): 139-58.

*Britton, Dana. 1997. Gendered organizational logic: Policy and practice in men’s and

women’s prisons. Gender & Society 11(6):976-7818.

Earley, Pete. 1992. The Hot House: Life inside Leavenworth Prison. New York: Bantam

Books. Pgs. 25-44; pg. 54-69;pg. 150-159.

T/TH: 2/17 and 2/19 [2nd short assignment due February 19th.]
Sabo, Don, Kupers, Terry, and Willie London. 2001. “Gender and the politics of

punishment”. In Sabo, Don, Kupers, Terry, and Willie London, Prison Masculinities (p. 3-18).

Foucault, Michele. 1978/1990. The history of sexuality: an introduction. Pgs 17-35.

Delany, Samuel. 1994. “The rhetoric of sex, the discourse of desire.” In Siebers, Tobin

(ed.), Heterotopia: Postmodern utopia and the body politic (pgs. 229-272). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
T/TH: 2/24 and 2/26
*Hannah-Moffat, Kelly. 2000. Prisons that empower: Neo-liberal governance in Canadian

women’s prisons. British Journal of Criminology 40:510-531.

Foucault, Michele. 1997/1995. Discipline & punishment: The birth of the prison. New

York: Random House. Pgs. 3-31.

T/TH: 3/3 and 3/5
*Flavin, Jeanne. 2001. Of punishment and parenthood: Family-based social control and the

sentencing of black drug offenders. Gender and Society 15(4): 611-33.

*Pettit, Becky and Bruce Western. 2004. “Mass imprisonment and the life course: race and

class inequality in U.S. incarceration. American Sociological Review 69(2): 151-169.

*Harrison, Paige, and Allen Beck. 2006. Prisoners in 2005. Bureau of justice statistics

bulletin. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

Section II: Mothering from Prison

T/TH: 3/10 and 3/12 [First paper due March 10th.]
Hays, Sharon. 1996. The cultural contradictions of motherhood. New Haven Conn.: Yale

University Press. Pg 19-50.

Roberts, Dorothy. Killing the Black body: Race, reproduction, and the meaning of liberty.

New York: Vintage Books. Pgs. 150-201.

*Roth, Rachel. 2004. “In Search of the State: Who governs prisoners’ reproductive rights?”

Social Politics, vol. 11 (3):411-438.
T/TH: 3/17 and 3/19

Spring Break begins March 14th and resumes March 23rd.
T/TH: 3/24 and 3/26
Maher, Lisa and Kathleen Daly. 2008. “Women in the street-level economy: Continuity or

change?” In The American Drug Scene: Anthology, 5th Edition.

*Vuolo, Mike and Candance Kruchnett. 2008. Prisoner’s adjustment, correctional officers,

and context: The foreground and background of punishment in late modernity. Law

& Society Review 42(2):307-335.

*McCorkel, Jill. 2004. Criminally dependent? Gender, punishment, and the rhetoric of

welfare reform. Social Politics 11(3):386-410.

Section III: Fathering from Prison

T/TH: 3/31 and 4/2
Collins, Patricia Hill. 2006. A telling difference: Dominance, strength, and black

masculinities. In Mutua, Athena (ed.), Progressive black masculinities (pgs. 73-98). New York: Routledge.

*Connell, R. W., and James W. Messerschmidt. 2005. Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking

the concept. Gender Society 19(6):829-59.

*Haney, Lynne, and Miranda March. 2003. Married fathers and caring daddies: Welfare

reform and the discursive politics of paternity. Social Problems 50(4): 461-81.

T/TH: 4/7 and 4/9
Kann, Mark. 2001. “Penitence for the privileged: Manhood, race, and penitentiaries in early

America”. In Sabo, Don, Kupers, Terry and Willie London (eds.), Prison Masculinities (pgs. 21-34). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

D’Emilio, John. (1997) “Family life and the regulation of deviance.” Pgs. 15-38 in

D'Emilio, John and Estelle B. Freedman (eds).  Intimate matters:  A history of sexuality in America.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

*Curran, Laura, and Laura S. Abrams. 2000. Making men into dads: Fatherhood, the state,

and welfare reform. Gender and Society 14(5): 662-78.

T/TH: 4/14 and 4/16
Nurse, Anne. 2002. Fatherhood arrested. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

Section IV: Families and Community

T: 4/21 and 4/23
Mele, Christopher. 2005. “The civil threat of eviction and the regulation and control of

of U.S. Public Housing Communities.” In Mele, Christopher and Teresa Miller (eds.), Civil Penalties, Social Consequences (pgs. 121-137). New York, London: Routledge.

*Genty, Phillip. 1998. Permanency planning in the context of parental incarceration:

Legal issues and recommendations. Child Welfare 77(5):543-560.

T/TH: 4/28 and 4/30

*Visher, Christy and Jeremy Travis. 2003. Transitions from prison to community:

Understanding individual pathways. Annual Review of Sociology, 29:89-113.

Clear, Tom. 2007. “In their own voices: People in high-incarceration communities talk about

the impact of incarceration.” Imprisoning communities: How mass incarceration makes disadvantaged neighborhoods worse. Oxford University Press.
T/TH: 5/5 and 5/7 [Final Paper due May 13th by 2:30pm.]
*Comfort, Megan L. 2003. In the tube at San Quentin: The "secondary prisonization" of

women visiting inmates. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 32, (1): 77-107.

*Hagan, John and Juleigh Petty Coleman. 2001. Returning captives of the American War

on drugs: Issues of community and family reentry. Crime & Delinquency 47:352-367.

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