For Dear Life chronicles feminist and artist Carol Jacobsen’s deep commitment to the causes of justice and human rights, and focuses a critical lens on an American criminal-legal regime that imparts racist, gendered, and classist modes of punishment to women lawbreakers. Jacobsen’s tireless work with and for women prisoners is charted in this rich assemblage of images and texts that reveal the collective strategies she and the prisoners have employed to receive justice. The book gives evidence that women’s lawbreaking is often an effort to survive gender-based violence. The faces, letters, and testimonies of dozens of incarcerated women with whom Jacobsen has worked present a visceral yet politicized chorus of voices against the criminal-legal systems that fail us all. Their voices are joined by those of leading feminist scholars in essays that illuminate the arduous methods of dissent that Jacobsen and the others have employed to win freedom for more than a dozen women sentenced to life imprisonment, and to free many more from torturous prison conditions. The book is a document to Jacobsen’s love and lifelong commitment to creating feminist justice and freedom, and to the efficacy of her artistic, legal, and extralegal political actions on behalf of women.
“An extremely powerful book that not only documents Jacobsen’s career but itself functions as an artistic project that challenges the silencing measures inflicted by social forces upon marginalized women such as prisoners and sex workers.”
—Wendy Kozol, Oberlin College
“Jacobsen does a wonderful job accurately presenting the field in a highly compelling manner. This is truly a case in which a picture is worth more than a thousand words—this richly illustrated book’s mixture of photos of incarcerated women juxtaposed with reproductions of bureaucratic documents is spot on, and the women's voices compelling.”
—Susan Sered, Suffolk University