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Inside This Place, Not of It reveals some of the most egregious human rights violations within women’s prisons in the United States. In their own words, the thirteen narrators in this book recount their lives leading up to incarceration and their experiences inside—ranging from forced sterilization and shackling during childbirth, to physical and sexual abuse by prison staff. Together, their testimonies illustrate the harrowing struggles for survival that women in prison must endure.

Listen to Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show as they discuss the prison experience with Tina Reynolds, a former prisoner. You can also watch the editors speak at Columbia University for the Oral History Seminar Series.

You can download free curriculum for this book here.

Voice of Witness is a non-profit organization that uses oral history to illuminate contemporary human rights crises in the U.S. and around the world. Founded by author Dave Eggers and physician/human rights scholar Lola Vollen, Voice of Witness publishes a book series that depicts human rights injustices through the stories of the men and women who experience them. The Voice of Witness Education Program brings these stories, and the issues they reflect, into high schools and impacted communities through oral history-based curricula and holistic educator support.

Praise for Inside This Place, Not of It:

“These stories are a gift. The women in this book compel us to imagine how their lives would be different—how we would be different—if we responded to their experience with genuine care, compassion, and concern.”
—from the foreword by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow

"Inside This Place, Not Of It is precisely the kind of book we need now. In reading these narratives—so skillfully assembled, and with the accompanying statistics and data which let readers see how America and its states are complicit in taking away lives and dignity from so many women—what stands out is the poignant sense of abandonment and sadness that changed their lives from childhood, and the astonishing strength and perseverance that let them survive in prison. I will never forget these women, or this book."
—Susan Straight, author of Take One Candle Light A Room

“I am passionately, ardently grateful for the existence of this book. How else would I have ever heard the voices of these women? Where would I gain insight or understanding of the lives they describe: harrowing, riveting, rife with misogyny, and utterly unacceptable in a country that values human rights.”
—Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture

“We may hear about prisons, but not much from prisoners, and certainly not from women prisoners, which makes Inside This Place, Not of It so unusual.”
—Leonard Lopate


This is the ninth book in the Voice of Witness series. Using oral history as a foundation, Voice of Witness books seek to illuminate contemporary human rights crises in the U.S. and around the world. Voice of Witness is a registered 501 (c)(3) non profit. For more information, visit