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Freeing Tammy

Women, Drugs, and Incarceration

Jody Raphael

Publication Year: 2013

Tammara (Tammy) Johnson is an African-American woman in her fifties, an ex-addict with a 19-year heroin habit and a felony record, who works as the job development trainer for an in-patient drug treatment program in south suburban Chicago. Raised in a middle-class family, Tammy left home early because she could not live up to parental expectations. She turned to drugs and crime and was eventually incarcerated for selling drugs.

This book, the third in a trilogy about Chicago women by noted author Jody Raphael, is the story of Tammy's metamorphosis. Raphael's narrative, based on extensive interviews with Tammy and family members, shows the detrimental effects of incarceration on an already abused woman and illuminates Tammy's efforts to release herself from the literal and figurative prisons of abuse, addiction, crime, fear, and hopelessness.

Raphael uses the transit of Tammy's life--from childhood trauma to adult rehabilitation--to investigate the linkages between childhood sexual assault and domestic violence with women's drug addiction and then with crime. She uses Tammy's own words to demonstrate how childhood sexual assault and violence can make women poor and how dysfunctional coping strategies keep them poor. Tammy's story is a reminder that violence against women and girls economically impoverishes them by trapping them in addictions leading to crime and other self-destructive activities.

Published by: Northeastern University Press

Series: Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law


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pp. 1-5

Title Page

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pp. 6-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-7

Tammara (Tammy) Johnson stands before fifty men in an in-patient drug treatment program in south suburban Chicago.1 An ex-addict with a nineteen-year heroin habit and a felony record, Tammy is the program’s job development trainer. ...

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1 | Betrayal

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pp. 8-14

April 4, 1997. Tammy was pleased with her progress. After many tries, she had been off heroin now for about twelve months. It had been a nineteen-year habit. Her college classes were going well; she was only a year away from graduation. Making up for all that lost time felt good. ...

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2 | Trial

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pp. 15-21

Maurice showed the officers the safe in the closet. Vonnie, Tammy’s niece, was screaming, so the police officers dispatched the two youths to the hallway. Clamping Tammy’s hands behind her back in cuffs, they led her past the children to the police car, despite Tammy’s cries, “Don’t do this in front of my son!” ...

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3 | County Jail

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pp. 22-47

And if this weren’t bad enough, the ensuing strip search brought home the reality of Tammy’s new status. A sheriff’s deputy barked at Tammy, “You’ll stop crying right now, we don’t have time for that, get up and strip.” ...

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4 | Prison

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pp. 48-62

The postage-stamp size of the two-person cell to which Tammy was assigned in the maximum security unit made the county cells seem like suites in comparison. When Tammy lay on the top bunk she could touch the ceiling of the cell, and if she leaned a little bit, she could touch the wall across from her. ...

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5 | Numbing

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pp. 63-83

While Tammy was in prison, Terrence tried to conceal his difficulties from his mother. The twelve-year-old was dealing with Tammy’s incarceration in an abnormal way, but one that enabled him to cope with her absence. Externally, he appeared angry and upset. ...

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6 | Minimum Security

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pp. 84-93

Tammy’s transfer to a minimum security facility for women six months after her arrival at prison should have made life more bearable, but it didn’t. For one thing, in her new setting she found the other incarcerated women cruel. ...

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7 | Terrence Alone

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pp. 94-105

Aunt Pat had finally had it: “I couldn’t go another day.” Her household was in an uproar, and her marriage was in tatters (and would not survive). There were other issues, one involving a former girlfriend of her husband, but the conflict with Terrence certainly didn’t help matters. ...

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8 | The Basement

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pp. 106-127

Finally, Tammy was home for good—with an ankle bracelet for three additional months. With the monitor she could only go to and from work and only a certain distance from the house. Once the bracelet was removed, she would be on parole supervision. ...

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9 | Forgetting

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pp. 128-141

Few of these important insights, however, came to Tammy while she languished in the basement. Recovery from addiction is not a one-time occurrence, but rather a process during which long-buried events are brought to the surface and considered. Tammy knows now that heroin prevents this kind of thinking altogether; ...

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10 | Out of the Basement

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pp. 142-166

Something jump-started Tammy out of that depression, and that something was Professor Michele McMaster, one of Tammy’s university teachers. Recognizing that she needed to tell someone, Tammy decided what she needed to do was to talk out her problems and emotions. ...

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Epilogue: Back to County

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pp. 167-172

On a rainy November day, Tammy revisits the Cook County jail tier in which she was incarcerated five years ago. She sees that the cinderblocks need painting, the linoleum is scuffed and torn, and the lack of ventilation makes the overheated air heavy and fetid. The tier could be easily and cheaply redecorated, ...


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pp. 173-192


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pp. 193-210

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pp. 211-212

Tammy’s wonderful son, Terrence, and gracious sisters, Patricia and Terri, who so readily agreed to speak candidly with me, sometimes at length, about their lives with Tammy; ...


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pp. 213-220

E-ISBN-13: 9781555538354
E-ISBN-10: 1555538355
Print-ISBN-13: 9781555536725

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law