“You have to want it:” women’s desistance processes in a short-term provincial prison

Sheppard, Amy (2022) “You have to want it:” women’s desistance processes in a short-term provincial prison. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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My research examines how provincially sentenced women in Newfoundland and Labrador engage in the desistance process when imprisoned and released into the community. Desistance is the cessation of criminal behaviour. There remains a lacuna in knowledge tied to understanding how women’s experiences both within and outside prisons shape their ability to engage in crime-free living after the experience of prison. Thus, I focus on women’s cognitive shifts toward desistance and services that may help with the desistance process. Furthermore, I examine the impacts of mental disorders and addiction on women’s desistance processes. To examine formerly incarcerated women’s processes of desistance, I have interviewed 17 formerly incarcerated women and 16 service providers who work with them. Women interviewed for this study shared their reentry experiences into the community and recommendations to improve the reentry process for other women leaving prison. Furthermore, they share how release from prison into the community informed their ability to engage in desistance. Additionally, formerly incarcerated women share how experiences of being in prison, including accessing services offered, impact their decision and ability to engage in desistance. Service providers have experience working within systems and with a heterogeneous population of women and thus have valuable knowledge that furthers discussion around women’s desistence processes. Service providers share their experience of working with criminalized women in prison and on release. They elucidated systemic barriers that hinder women’s ability to engage in desistance after release from prison, My core research questions are: How do incarcerated women in Newfoundland and Labrador plan to make changes in their lives after prison? What do women interpret as the impacts of addiction on their ability to make changes or, simply put, desist? I seek to understand (i) if released women are informed about services that met their unique needs (i.e., substance use histories, mental health concerns, childcare issues), (ii) if they feel able to reach out to such services, (iii) and if they feel that using services will help achieve goals of desistance (if they have such goals of course). To understand women’s lived experiences and, thus, the role of prison in shaping their interpretation of their possible post-prison experiences, I include an analysis of the services/supports available to women, both in prison and after their release in Newfoundland and Labrador. Key findings consist of several factors impacting women’s ability to engage in the desistance process. These include connections between desistance and drug use whereby formerly incarcerated women see their drug use as interconnected and entwined with their criminal activity. Women and service providers assert that basic needs, such as safe housing, must be met to promote desistance from crime. Stigma impacts the desistance process due to the relational nature of desistance. The desistance process requires that others see that an individual has started to change and move away from criminal activity and towards a pro-social lifestyle. Furthermore, stigma impacts practical elements of desistance, such as the ability to obtain housing and employment, To support the desistance process for criminally involved women leaving prison in NL, service providers must support both the cognitive processes (individual work) and advocate making systemic changes. The process of desistance is rooted in an individual’s desire to make changes. These changes occur within a social context that impedes many women’s ability to successfully and smoothly move toward desistance

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/15385
Item ID: 15385
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 223-261).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Sociology
Date: January 2022
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.48336/V9EF-ZF59
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Female offenders--Rehabilitation--Newfoundland and Labrador; Female offenders--Newfoundland and Labrador; Mentally ill women--Social aspects--Newfoundland and Labrador.

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