Women in prison: An issue of blaming the individual for social problems

Oct 12, 2011

Los Angeles, CA (October 11, 2011) Researchers have long claimed that physical abuse and marginalization lead to criminal activity; however, women in prison are taught to overlook socioeconomic issues and blame only themselves for their behavior, according to the new study "Experiences of Interpersonal Violence and Criminal Legal Control: A Mixed Method Analysis," published in SAGE Open.

Authors Traci Schlesinger and Jodie Michelle state that there is a real connection between the type of abuse experienced by women, marginalization, and whether or not they will turn to drugs and criminal activity to cope with their experiences. Still, the authors contend current psychiatric and popular discourse portrays female incarceration as the result of poor choices and "rather than identifying structural conditions that lead to imprisonment—including changes in laws, racist and sexist legislation, poverty, lack of resources and jobs, and social vulnerability over the course of one's life."

The authors analyzed surveys from 170 incarcerated women as well as personal history interviews conducted with 11 formerly imprisoned women and found that women who experience non-sexual as well as any type of abuse as adults are more likely to begin using drugs, while women who are victims of sexual abuse as children claim that their imprisonment is a direct, nearly inevitable result of their abuse. They also found that marginalized women (such as women whose parents were also incarcerated and women who were unemployed at the time of their arrest) are more likely to turn to drugs to deal with than women with the resources to find other ways to cope with their experiences of violence.

"Having few or no options because of their marginalized socioeconomic positions, entrenched racial inequality, and repeated episodes of violence, respondents indicated that criminalized activities became survival mechanisms, which led to incarceration," write the authors.

The authors point to institutional change and support systems for victims of abuse as a way to prevent female criminal activity.

The authors wrote, "Radical education, community support, decriminalization, job creation, and automatic expungement could work together to push back against the web of interpersonal and state violence experienced by so many marginalized ."

Explore further: Liberal or conservative? Reactions to disgust are a dead giveaway

More information: The article "Experiences of Interpersonal Violence and Criminal Legal Control: A Mixed Method Analysis" published in SAGE Open, is available free at: sgo.sagepub.com/content/early/… 419523.full.pdf+html.

A podcast interview with authors Traci Schlesinger and Jodie Michelle is also available at: sgo.sagepub.com/content/1/2/21… 4011419523/suppl/DC1

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study examines how women label abuse

Dec 12, 2007

U.S. social scientists have found women assaulted by those known to them are less likely to label the experience as abusive violence.

Crimes borne of domestic abuse face long prison terms

Jun 09, 2011

Survivors of domestic violence who are convicted of crimes when protecting themselves from abuse often face long prison sentences, according to a new report on the barriers to justice faced by women survivor-defendants in ...

Recommended for you

Genes play a key part in the recipe for a happy country

16 hours ago

Why are the Danes naturally more cheerful than the Brits, and why are we in turn more upbeat than the French? Research presented as part of this year's ESRC Festival of Social Sciences shows us that the recipe behind a happy ...

Black Republicans put most faith in US government

Oct 29, 2014

Black Republicans trust the United States government more than other political groups, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia, ahead of the mid-term U.S. elections to be held on November ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DrJLD
not rated yet Oct 12, 2011
Pray tell, what is 'state' violence?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.