When most people think of prisons, they imagine chaos, violence, and fundamentally, an atmosphere of overwhelming brute masculinity. But real prisons rarely fit the “Big House” stereotype of popular film and literature. One fifth of all correctional officers are women, and the rate at which women are imprisoned is growing faster than that of men. Yet, despite increasing numbers of women prisoners and officers, ideas about prison life and prison work are sill dominated by an exaggerated image of men’s prisons where inmates supposedly struggle for physical dominance.
In a rare comparative analysis of men’s and women’s prisons, Dana Britton identifies the factors that influence the gendering of the American workplace, a process that often leaves women in lower-paying jobs with less prestige and responsibility.
In interviews with dozens of male and female officers in five prisons, Britton explains how gender shapes their day-to-day work experiences. Combining criminology, penology, and feminist theory, she offers a radical new argument for the persistence of gender inequality in prisons and other organizations. At Work in the Iron Cage demonstrates the importance of the prison as a site of gender relations as well as social control.
“This is a splendid piece of research about troubling and important issues. Dana Britton has written a clear, often vivid, account of the realities of prison work - far from the media images. She shows how gender stereotypes and gender divisions of labour shape this work and the lives of the people who do it. This is a most valuable book for all who are interested in gender questions, in organizational life, or in the consequences of the recent growth of the prison system.”
-R.W.Connell,author of Masculinities and Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics
“An important and significant contribution. . . . A study of the social construction of gender and how culture and agency influence the meaning of work . . . vivid and compelling.”
-American Journal of Sociology
“In this cleverly conceived study, Britton shows that women encounter sexism on both sides of the prison bars. This book is the first truly comparative case study of a gendered organization that will surely change popular and scholarly views of life inside the iron cage.”
-Christine Williams,Professor of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin
“At Work in the Iron Cage brings a wholly new and more realistic vision of America's prisons, and the male and female correctional officers who staff them. This is an impressive book, one that provokes fascinating insights into the American prison system, for researchers and policymakers alike.”
-Patricia A. Roos,Rutgers University