Megan Comfort - December 9, 2010

December 9, 2010 | 4:00pm-6:00pm | Umunhum Room, Student Union
Megan L. Comfort,  Assistant Professor
University of California, San Francisco

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Doing Time Together: Love & Family in the Shadow of the Prison

By quadrupling the number of people behind bars in two decades, the United States has become the world leader in incarceration. Much has been written on the men who make up the vast majority of the nation’s two million inmates. But what of the women they leave behind? Doing Time Together vividly details the ways that prisons shape and infiltrate the lives of women with husbands, fiancés, and boyfriends on the inside. Megan Comfort spent years getting to know women visiting men at San Quentin State Prison, observing how their romantic relationships drew them into contact with the penitentiary. Tangling with the prison’s intrusive scrutiny and rigid rules turns these women into “quasi-inmates,” eroding the boundary between home and prison and altering their sense of intimacy, love, and justice. Yet Comfort also finds that with social welfare weakened, prisons are the most powerful public institutions available to women struggling to overcome untreated social ills and sustain relationships with marginalized men. As a result, they express great ambivalence about the prison and the control it exerts over their daily lives. An illuminating analysis of women caught in the shadow of America’s massive prison system, Comfort’s book will be essential for anyone concerned with the consequences of our punitive culture.

Discussants

About the Author

Megan Comfort is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at UCSF and a visiting fellow at the Mannheim Centre for Criminology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics in 2003 and was awarded the Robert McKenzie Prize for her dissertation. She began working at CAPS in 2002 as a Research Specialist and was appointed Assistant Professor in 2007. Her research interests include HIV prevention, HIV risk behaviors, incarceration, women, race, poverty, and health disparities.