Sociology Professors Susan Sered and Maureen Norton-Hawk have released the new book Can't Catch a Break: Gender, Jail, Drugs, and the Limits of Personal Responsibility.

Book cover of Can't Catch a Break: Gender, Jail, Drugs, and the Limits of Personal ResponsibilityThe book tells the personal stories of 40 women the authors have come to know during five years of field work. It documents their day-to-day struggles in the face of sexual abuse, violent communities, ineffective social and therapeutic programs, discriminatory local and federal policies, criminalization, incarceration, and a broad cultural consensus that views suffering as a consequence of personal flaws and bad choices.

The book combines astute policy analysis as it chronicles the ways that marginalized women navigate an unforgiving world.

The introduction to the book gives a hint of what these women contend with:

“When Christine was laid off from her job after three years, she learned that her employer had not been paying into unemployment insurance. Daisy’s purse was stolen the day she cashed her Social Security check. … Because Gloria’s mail was stolen, she failed to receive and fill out a form to recertify her health coverage….

“We have come to understand that while many portals lead into lives of affliction, few lead out. The largest risk factor for sexual abuse is having been sexually abused in the past; the largest risk factor for poverty is already having been poor; the largest risk factor for incarceration is previous incarceration. …”

In addition to students, the book is aimed at policy-makers, legislators, advocates and activists nationwide, according to Sered.