1On pages 32–33, George discusses the routine of prison and the
feeling that she is institutionalized. What is happening to her? Most of us
have schedules of some sort. Does that mean we can relate to George? What would
it be like to have a prison schedule like George's?
2On page 35, George writes, "Remembrance can be paralyzing."
How do you think that holding on to life on the outside can help or hurt
someone trying to adjust to prison? If this quote is true, what about
forgetting? Is it liberating?
3George emphasizes the sense of
community that exists between lifers. How do you think these relationships are
important in the attempt to adjust to a life behind bars? Do lifers forge a
life worth living in your estimation? What makes a lifer's life meaningful, if
anything? (Pages 35-36)
4On pages 46-49, George describes the cameras that are everywhere in the
prison. What would it be like to be constantly watched? Would it make you
paranoid? Think of a situation when you were being watched that made you think
you might do something wrong at any point. Is a prison like a reality show?
Which show? Should we, the general public, be allowed to view these
"prison reality shows" to better understand our prisoners and our
prisons? What would you name this prison reality show? Inferno? Dead
Zone? Come up with names and explain how they would fit the "prison
reality show" as you envision it.
1In the beginning of the chapter,
George talks about Pam and Angel's relationship. Pam seems to take advantage of
Angel. Do you think this repeats the abuse that many of these women endured on
the outside? How? (Pages 51–52)
2George describes the various relationships
among lifers with one another in prison. Without knowing what this material is
describing, what would it sound like? A marriage? A friendship? Something else?
3What do you think of the problems
with male corrections officers doing inappropriate things to and with the
female inmates? Where does the line for "inappropriate behavior"
begin? Is there a clear line? Do you think that prisons for women should have
only female corrections officers? How about having only male officers in men's
prisons? Why/why not? (Pages 58–59)
4On page 65, George writes, "The safest assumption to make is
that no one can keep a secret in prison." Does this circumstance further
isolate prisoners? Do you think that this statement is an overgeneralization?
What about snitches? Should prison officials encourage or discourage snitching?
1We usually hear about violence in
men's prisons, but George brings to our attention the increasing problem of
violence in women's prisons. How does the fear of being a random victim affect
female prisoners? Does it reinforce the prisoner mentality, described by George
in these terms: "The wise ones go to their cells and stay there, emerging
only for showers, commissary, bathroom, and work"? (Page 68)
2What do we learn from the riot that
Dizzy talks about between federal and state prisoners? Should there be separate
facilities for these two groups? Why/why not? Why don't women prisoners riot
more often than they do? (Pages 69–72)
3Do you think that federal and state
inmates should be housed in the same institutions? What are the advantages and
disadvantages of the current system? The state receives funding for housing
federal inmates; is this evidence that the system is more interested in money
than in the well-being of its inmates?
1George talks about following the
rules and dealing with the negative and sad situations that she is stuck in.
How do you respond to situations you are stuck in? Do you remain calm, or are
you more likely to retreat or retaliate? What are the advantages of these
different strategies in prison as well as in free society? (Pages 79–87)
2Tianne is taken to segregation
without being given a reason. How would you react to being punished for
something unknown to you? What if you could do nothing about it? Does this say
anything about prisoners' rights? (Pages 87–89)
3George talks about execution versus
life without parole and Karen's theory that prisoners should be able to choose
between the two. What are your thoughts on this? Why do you think this? Which
would you choose: execution or life imprisonment? Why? (Page 99)
1How do the problems with phone
calls perpetuate the notion that we should "lock criminals up and throw
away the key"? What are alternatives that could be used to solve this
problem? (Pages 106-107)
2George talks about the low wages
prisoners are paid and the idea that jails should charge a daily room and board
fee. Do you think this is a good idea? Would paying for their keep deter
prisoners from returning to prison or just punish them further? (Page 108)
3Should prisoners be allowed to
order from outside vendors? What limits, if any, should be placed on outside
orders? Are prisoners receiving comforts and amenities from these orders that
you think are inappropriate? (Pages
4Erin's problems with ordering socks
seem absurd. Explore Erin's side of the problem as well as that of officials.
Does this problem with ordering socks highlight the "power trip" that
many contend some corrections officers have while working in prisons? How? (Pages 110-111)
1We see many ways by which these
women form a sort of surrogate family inside. How does this "family"
ease the rejection that many prisoners face from their families? Is this
surrogate family a good alternative to the real family that many women lose?
What do we see in men's prisons as a surrogate family?
2On page 125, George writes, "Having to constantly ask for help
is more demeaning to me than being strip searched or peeing into a cup in front
of a stranger." How does the need for outside help (typically from an
inmate's family) put a strain on relationships? What does this quotation mean
to you? How would you interpret it?
3What do you think of the MILK
program? Do you think there should be more programs like this at more prisons?
Do you think that it benefits the children? (Pages 131-137)
4We hear Erin's story about another
mother in MILK, Divina, talking about her son getting into trouble like she
did. This cycle tends to be a recurring problem in our society. What
suggestions could be offered to Divina and other mothers in her situation to
help their children? (Pages 132-133)
1Read the poem,
"Cloistered" (page vi). Identify and discuss parts of the poem that
are particularly powerful to you. (Page
2On page 143, George writes, "The transience of life is a
constant here." This is an interesting statement, seeing as how typically
we see prison discussed as a constant, as something that never changes from day
to day. What do you think of this statement?
3Is there a symbolic meaning to some
lifers wanting to get their GEDs so badly? If yes, what do you think the
symbolism is? Why? (Pages 144–146)
1Who put the "care" in
medical care? Do prisoners receive care or simply services? Does it matter to
you as a matter of humaneness or justice? (Pages 159-162)
2Why do you think the prison medical
ward did not believe George when she told them she had systemic lupus
erythmatosus? (Page 160)
3What types of negative effects
could receiving the wrong medications have on prisoners? Should the prison be
held responsible for this? What should be done to prevent this from happening?
4What type of effects do you think
giving birth to a baby while in prison has on inmates? Do you think that the
prison should offer services to these women to deal with this experience? (Pages 172-173)
1Nadia talks about not getting the
help needed for her problems. Does this lack of attention to Nadia's illness
indicate a more punitive system versus a reforming or corrective system? (Page 190)
2Naomi discusses her parole denial
as a result of truth in sentencing. Can you justify shortening a sentence for
an offense such as murder based on good behavior? Can you justify not
shortening a sentence based on good behavior? (Pages 193-194)
3On page 195, Diandra writes,
"I have also learned that it is possible for people to change. I have met
women here who are guilty of horrific crimes, but are clearly not the same
people they were 20 years ago. It is not the prison system that rehabilitated
them, though. They managed to change despite the system." What does this
observation seem to say about the services available to inmates? How does this
relate to Nadia's contention that she has not received the services necessary for
her illness? Is this another example of prisoners being treated inhumanely? How
so? What is being done about treatment?
1George discusses her frustration
and disgust with "frequent fliers." Do you think that she is right in
her feelings? Why/why not? Do you think you would feel the same way as George?
2As an outsider, what are your
feelings about individuals who continue to go in and out of prison? Imagine the
social forces or personal failings (or both) that might bring a woman back to
3On page 205, George writes, "I had made the choice at the jail
to maintain an existence I could be proud of, but beyond that vague goal I was
flailing around, trying desperately to maintain while trapped in an ethical
quagmire." How would you interpret this statement? What do you think
George is trying to say here?
4George discusses various situations
where finding others like her makes a situation easier (like religious
beliefs). How does this confirm the sense of community among lifers in Fluvanna?
Do you think we would see this in other prisons, including prisons for men?
What about among inmates who do not have long sentences? (Pages 205-208)
5How authentic are the religious
conversions that happen so often in prison? Do you think these conversions come
from a genuine desire for forgiveness and redemption?
6George discusses her relationship
with some of the other inmates as a family. How do you think this relationship
serves as a support system? Do you think it is a healthy one? (Page 209)
7Taking cigarettes away from the
inmates was leading to more violence. Is this practice worth it? To those who
do smoke? To those who do not smoke? Would you ban smoking or allow smoking
areas in the prison? (Page 212)
8Is the term "inmate" or
"offender" more appropriate? Why? (Page 213)
9Geriatric parole is becoming more
of an issue with prison overcrowding. Do you think that geriatric parole should
become a practice? For those with the possibility of parole? For those without
the possibility of parole? For those with indeterminate sentences? (Pages 214–218)
10What problems might ensue from
releasing individuals who have been in prison for 35 years? Would such release
increase the need for parole programs? Would such release be worth it or more
of a risk for both the system and the paroled inmate? (Look at Tianne's
11George and Belinda's plans for when
they get old sound much like outsiders' conversations about getting old with
their best friends. Is there any difference? Do these plans make George and Belinda
seem more like us? (Page 218)