Book Review on A Woman Doing Life

A Woman Doing Life

The author of the book, A woman doing life, is a lifetime inmate who presents what women in prison go through on a daily basis based on her own experiences. The author, Erin George, addresses the physical and psychological challenges that women encounter and how difficult it is to handle the terrible as well as heartbreaking events (George, 2015). The book describes clearly and in detail how women in the prison struggle to make ends meet and how they can find themselves amidst the harsh prison environment.

First, there this no surety that one will survive prison and thus calls for a strong character and importantly creativity. This is due to the fact that prisoners have very limited resources and violence is part of their life. Women’s prisons lack quality food, clothing, as well as security (George, 2015). The author narrates how her pair of underwear’s fell apart on the first day stating that such clothes are not easy to find. Due to these challenges, women find themselves forming unlikely alliances and support groups in order to protect themselves from violent crimes as well as to communicate to the outside world. In some instances, some of them not only befriend high ranking prison officers, but also engage in sexual activities. This is further motivated by the fact that most families shut out most of them, thereby forcing them to find comfort inside prison.

Subsequently, social groups in women’s prisons are a necessity to survive. Though prisons have legitimate social organizations, Erin observe that underground organizations are more stronger and in essence for those serving long-term or life sentences. This is because prisoners serving long sentences are very close to the guards and so they learn how to avoid solitary confinement or receive exceptional privileges. This makes them rank highly among other prisoners and as such their services in terms of security or other benefits are sought. However, it is important to note that even prisoners have got different classes and realm. In this view, even the longest serving prisoners fight amongst themselves and in most cases even the guards are forced to choose which group to favor (Lempert, 2016). Additionally, it is difficult for prisoners to meet or interact with other prison officials. As such, the guards hold the key to prisoners’ quality of life and the best time in prison with lesser or more trouble depending on how they relate.

Life in female prisons is hard. Evidently it is apparent that prison officers are very selfish and take advantage of women’s weaknesses for their benefit. The fact that women prisoners are forced to engage in activities such as cooking and sex shows how vulnerable and inhumane the prisons are. The said physical and mental abuse leaves the prisoners more tormented. It is unfortunate that the sick cannot access medicine without having first to give in to a guard demands (Lempert, 2016). Therefore, it is apparent that incarceration takes away a lot of women as well as deprives them of their identities.

In my view, George avoided a detailed discussion of her case because she came to the realization that, as determined by the court, though she believes in her innocence, she is in prison to stay given the rot in the system. Nonetheless, she claims that the evidence presented in her case was circumstantial, but in her an element of guilt lies. The book exposes the evils in the women’s prisons to inform prisoners and the outside world of the emotions in the prison life.





George, E. (2015). A Woman Doing Life: Notes from a Prison for Women (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Lempert, L. (2016). Women Doing Life: Gender, Punishment and the Struggle for Identity. New York: NYU Press.