Book Review: “African American Women With Incarcerated Mates” by Avon Hart-Johnson

Reviewed by Semina Pek, Blogger

In the United States, one in fifteen African American men is incarcerated. The same ethnicity makes 40% of the total prison population, making it a high-risk ethnicity. In her book, Hart-Johnson provides a lengthy insight into lives of African American women who share the experience of having their partners incarcerated. Using interviews with 20 different women who shared their lives stories, the author describes all the consequences of that these women felt.

Incarceration really causes a lot of suffering to all the involved parties. Families often lose their breadwinners, children grow up without fathers and women lose emotional support that their partners provide. And not to mention what kind of monetary strain the families experience in just court-related fines and fees. There is also the sense of shame that comes with the involvement with imprisoned men, but also so much grief since they are removed from their families’ lives. They know that their husbands, sons and brothers are alive but they can’t share simple life moments with them.

What is unfortunate is that these men are often victims of the system which is almost rigged to make them fail. A combination of socio-economic issues like dysfunctional families, lack of proper education and living in a low-income household makes these men turn to crime. It often starts a new cycle in which the next generation has to deal with the similar circumstances.

“African American Women with Incarcerated Mates: The Psychological and Social Impacts of Mass Imprisonment” is a great guide for counselors that come from different backgrounds than the women they would like to help. After every chapter, there is a list of questions to think about and they definitely help to understand the matter better. As someone who comes from a completely different cultural background than the subjects in question, I found this book extremely insightful. The US has the largest incarceration rate in the world and the fact alone should call for a reform of cultural and political norms that would provide a solution to this problem.

“African American Women with Incarcerated Mates: The Psychological and Social Impacts of Mass Imprisonment” by Avon Hart-Johnson is available at