Elevate Difference

Freeing Tammy: Women, Drugs, and Incarceration

Meet Tammara Johnson, an ex-19 year heroin addict, ex-prisoner and now a job development trainer for an in-patient drug treatment program. Freeing Tammy is the final book of a trilogy that discusses women, poverty and violence. Raphael brings to light the circumstances that plague women in poor communities, especially black women, for survival within their community - a survival that reaches all realms of the existence of women combating abusive relationships, childhood sexual abuse and drugs.

A correlation of these factors is presented within the existence of Tammy’s life. We are taken on a journey beginning with her making progress to kick her heroin addiction to going to jail for holding drugs within her home for a drug dealer. While in prison, Tammy’s son, Terrance, is left behind to live with his aunt and struggle with the realization that his mother is in jail and his father is an alcoholic that can’t provide the parental involvement he needs.

Freeing Tammy not only effectively revolves around Tammy’s incarceration experience, but shows the reader the inner working of our prison system. Raphael provides in-depth research, interviews and statistical data regarding women in prison and its effects on their self-esteem and dignity as a woman and a human being. A passage in the book reflects this point: “In prison the effects of being stripped of your dignity and your self-esteem have a long lasting effect. It has an effect that is so damaging that I don’t even think that therapy can take it away.” She opened the door of the reader’s mind to the dehumanization, humiliation and disregard of a woman’s identity in prison.

I was expecting the book to be solely about Tammy, but was thrown off by the research data, yet welcomed the opportunity to learn about our criminal justice system and the subconscious behavior exhibited by authority to degrade and belittle a female criminal. Jody Raphael created an exciting mixture of the data, which was easy to read and thoroughly pleasing.

Written by: LaToya Rogers, September 4th 2007

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