Making It in the Free World

Women in Transition from Prison

By Patricia O'Brien

Subjects: Sociology
Series: SUNY series in Women, Crime, and Criminology
Paperback : 9780791448625, 212 pages, February 2001
Hardcover : 9780791448618, 212 pages, February 2001

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Table of contents




1. Making It in the “Free World”

2. Establishing Home

3. From the Inside Out

4. Reconstructing Relationships

5. It Could Be Otherwise

Epilogue: Two Years Later

Appendix A: Research Design

Appendix B: Summary of Study Participants




Explores how women inmates make the transition from prison back into society.


This is the first study to address the important but neglected topic of how women return to the "free world" after single or multiple experiences of incarceration. It uses first-person narratives and a comprehensive review of contemporary theory to provide useful suggestions for practitioners and policymakers concerned with responding to the increasing number of women in the criminal justice system.

Patricia O'Brien provides an in-depth description of the experiences of women with a variety of criminal histories to elucidate elements that contributed to their desistance from crime. The book challenges practitioners to be more proactive in recognizing the needs of this population and more responsive to these needs. O'Brien suggests policy changes, especially related to alternatives to incarceration. The first-person narratives of non-recidivist women provide concrete and powerful examples of the crucial mix of ingredients any woman needs to remain free and empowered in a context of powerlessness and increasing social control.

Patricia O'Brien is Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work.


"Extremely well written and addressing an important but neglected topic, this book is significant and critical to the area of women's prisons. The first-person narratives are very powerful. "—Barbara Owen, author of "In the Mix": Struggle and Survival in a Women's Prison