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UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

July 31, 2001 Contact: Bryant Payne (312) 355-2523; bpayne2@uic.edu


A new book by a University of Illinois at Chicago professor of social work explores how female inmates make the transition from prison back into society and shows the impact of the nation's criminal justice system on women and children.

In "Making it in the Free World: Women in Transition from Prison," Patricia O'Brien, assistant professor in UIC's Jane Addams College of Social Work, examines the lives of women as they struggled to create a new life for themselves after prison.

"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," O'Brien said.

"Making it in the Free World" uses first-person narratives to describe former women prisoners' efforts to make it "on the outside," including issues such as reunification with children and securing training and employment. O'Brien also includes a comprehensive review of contemporary theory to guide practitioners and policymakers responding to the increasing number of women in the criminal justice system.

O'Brien, the principal investigator on a National Institute of Justice-funded study of recidivism and reintegration of women exiting prison in Illinois, also offers suggestions of ways to change policies, especially alternatives to imprisonment.

"Many of my suggestions could better serve the children of women who are now sent hundreds of miles away to serve their sentences and denied regular access to their children," said O'Brien.

"Making it in the Free World" also takes on the often ignored issue of sentencing guidelines and gives a better understanding of how the transition from prison life is shaped both by the woman's own resilience and external perceptions and resources.

- UIC -

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