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Female Offenders Perceptions’ of Prison Dr Isla Masson & Dr Serena Wright &

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Presentation on theme: "Female Offenders Perceptions’ of Prison Dr Isla Masson & Dr Serena Wright &"— Presentation transcript:

1 Female Offenders Perceptions’ of Prison Dr Isla Masson & Dr Serena Wright &

2 Introduction to the different research projects Two ends of the same scale for our doctoral research: IM - Women serving a first short sentence SW - Women classified as prolific or persistent offenders The unheard voices of women Both wanted to explore the lives of a minority within our criminal justice system – did this through different interview techniques: repeat, semi-structured vs. in-depth, life history

3 Last year 8/10 sentenced female prison receptions were serving under 12 months, the majority of which were serving 6 months or less (Ministry of Justice, 2014) “I did pottery but I only just started it, I didn’t get a certificate because of the short period of time. They said it would take about six weeks...If I had more time I would have achieved so much more” (Debbie, 27, sentenced, 2months Breach of an order). “I think is the big thing that needs to change in the system is that…there’s not a lot of support set up for people doin’ short sentences in the prison?…Um, you’re basically just in limbo – you get pushed to the side…and there’s not a lot of courses there for people that are doing short sentences, or even release plans for them” (Amy, 31, sentenced, 3 years Robbery). Inability Of Short Sentences To Address Needs [i]

4 Inability Of Short Sentences To Address Needs [ii] Short sentences failure to address range of ‘needs’, means that longer sentences could – counter-intuitively - seem preferable “But part of me [slaps her leg – sounds almost angry with herself] wants tae come back’ – isn’t that sad…It maybe sounds harsh but I’m gonna ask the judge, I’ll say ‘Please can you give me some more time in this prison’”(Lennox, 62, remanded, Breach of ASBO). “I said to them I’d prefer to remain in prison, they said ‘no they can’t leave me in the prison I have to go’… ‘When I’m out how can I cope?’ I said. ‘Let me stay here until you people make a decision’” (Steph, 30, sentenced, 8months Theft).

5 A traumatic event vs. A place of safety and change [i] “The first couple of weeks I could understand why people would want to kill themselves...When they first shut the door I thought I can’t do the next four months behind these bars and being searched and it was degrading, and I’ve never been in trouble in my life...I didn’t stop crying...I couldn’t eat, I’d stick it straight in the bin” (Marie, 42, sentenced, 8months Theft). “There was times when I thought I wasn’t going to get out of there alive, because it was you know women fighting, girls cutting themselves with razor blades...in there you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you think you’re not coming out” (Bella, 40, sentenced, 3months Non-payment of council tax).

6 A traumatic event vs. A place of safety and change [ii] ‘[A]lthough prison is hardly a preferable environment in which to do so, the people, vocational & educational opportunities, meaningful work, & counselling available…can empower and encourage her in that long, hard struggle’ (Clark, 1995: 324). “You’re wrapped up in a prison environment, it’s safe – I know that sounds mad but it is; if you’re off the streets it’s safe, and then you step out there and it’s chaos – for somebody like me, it’s chaos” (Morgan, 31, 3years 6months Intent to Supply Class A). “Here I can achieve something with my life. I’m happy here, I can go to education, I can make plans…I know it sounds strange, but in a way I want to stay in prison and get on with my education” (Debbie, 27, sentenced, 2months Breach of an order).

7 Post-prison: Problems securing accommodation Accommodation ‘is women’s greatest resettlement concern on release and it seems to me to be the pathway most in need of speedy, fundamental gender specific reform’ (Corston, 2007: 8). “I did think prison was going to help me, everybody in there was like ‘don’t worry about it, you’ll get housing, you’ll get housing’. You don’t, you’ve got to be in there for 12 months minimum before they will give you housing” (Donna, 33, sentenced, 6months Theft). “I got out to nothing again, um, my mum didn’t wanna know, didn’t have nowhere to live, didn’t have no one to get out to so went back to the same routine [drug use, and selling sex to fund it]” (Louise, 23, sentenced, 2years 4months Burglary).

8 Post-prison: Problems securing appropriate accommodation “There’s no point in me doing a detox [in prison] and then throwing me back in a fucking junkie-filled hostel” (Badger, 26, sentenced, 4years 6months Burglary). “The place wasn’t conducive for my baby...no matter how much you clean, there was rats because the dumpster is not far away, so there’s always rats coming from gardens into your home, into your toilet holes...so I had to take them to court to move me” (Bryony, 32, remanded, False passport).

9 Concluding Thoughts Some experiences seemed positive, however this was relative to their chaotic lives outside For some, being released was more stressful, particularly in regards to accommodation, which was often less than appropriate Lessons are not being learned or what has been learned is not being acted upon in a sustained manner (Heidensohn (1998), Gelsthorpe (2006), and Player (2013))

10 Reference List Clark, J. (1995) The Impact of the Prison Environment on Mothers. The Prison Journal 75(3): Corston, J. (2007) The Corston Report: A Review of Women with Particular Vulnerabilities in the Criminal Justice System. London. Gelsthorpe, L. (2006) COUNTERBLAST. Women and criminal justice: Saying it again, again, and again. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 45(4): Heidensohn, F. (1998) Translations and refutations: An analysis of changing perspectives in criminology. In S. Holdaway and P. Rock [Eds]. Thinking about criminology (pp.40-53). London, UK: UCL Press.

11 Reference List Masson, I. (2014) The Long-Term Impact of Short Periods of Imprisonment on Mothers. PhD Thesis, King’s College London. Ministry of Justice. (2014) Annual tables - Offender management caseload statistics 2013 tables: Female receptions into prison establishments by type of custody, sentence length and age group, London: MoJ. Player, E. (2013) Women in the criminal justice system: The Triumph of Inertia. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 0(0):1– 22. Wright, S. (2014) ‘Persistent’ and ‘prolific’ offending across the life-course as experienced by women: Chronic recidivism and frustrated desistance. PhD Thesis, University of Surrey.


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