Women’s imprisonment campaigns gathered momentum in Victoria, Australia from the late 1970s onwards. Advocates and activists, operating from feminist and often prison abolition principles, used direct action, public education, lobbying and legal tools to create pressure for change in the women’s prison system. Campaigns focused on challenging various harmful and dangerous practices and conditions affecting women in prison, including forced sterilization and the use of prescription drugs for control; lack of access to children and family; excessive strip-searching; the punitive transfer of women to men’s high-security prisons and more (Carnaby, 1998; Cerveri et al., 2005; Cotter, 2008; George, 1993, 1995; Hampton, 1993; Hancock, 1982; Hannon, 2006). Whilst some of these practices have ceased over the past few decades, many of the issues persist, albeit in different forms, and new problems have emerged for anti-prison activists. This paper offers a reflection on some of the complexities present in anti-prison activism focused on ameliorating some of the immediate harms imprisoned women face and the necessary negotiations with the penal state.
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