Speaking of Crime explores how inmates speak of their lives and in particular how they speak of crime. What is the power of speech for prisoners? What do their uses of pronouns and choices of verbs reveal about them, their experiences of violence, their relationships with other prisoners, and their likelihood for change? In this fascinating book, Patricia E. O'Connor probes beneath the surface of prison speech by examining over one hundred taped accounts of narratives of violence made by African-American inmates of a U.S. maximum security prison. The inmates' manner of speaking about their lives and acts of violence—not just what they talk about but how they talk about it—supplies important clues to their senses of identity and feelings of agency. The use of second-person pronouns when speaking about themselves and a reliance on distinctive verbal devices such as irony and constructed dialogue provide important insights into the way prisoners see their world and help condition how they interact with it.
Sociolinguist Patricia E. O'Connor is an associate professor of English at Georgetown University with over fifteen years of experience doing fieldwork and teaching in prisons.