Compelled to Crime tells the stories of battered African American women incarcerated in a New York city correctional facility and explores what happens when the criminal justice system is introduced as a repressive force in their lives. Borrowing from the legal notion of 'gender entrapment', Beth Richie details the ways in which African American women are hemmed into the corners of U.S. society by virtue of their vulnerability to men's violence, and penalized for behaviours that are prescribed by societal mores of appropriate gender roles. Often misrepresented and misunderstood, these women have been physically battered, sexually assaulted, and emotionally abused. These devastating circumstances represent a position from which there is little escape. Desperation leads them into illegal activities, and the cycle is only perpetuated by a legal system that continues to penalize these women and deny them access to the counselling and services they so desperately need to change their lives.