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Beyond RecidivismNew Approaches to Research on Prisoner Reentry and Reintegration$
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Andrea Leverentz, Elsa Y. Chen, and Johnna Christian

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479862726

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479862726.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 24 January 2022

Prison Experiences and Identity in Women’s Life Stories

Prison Experiences and Identity in Women’s Life Stories

Implications for Reentry

(p.151) 7 Prison Experiences and Identity in Women’s Life Stories
Beyond Recidivism

Merry Morash

Elizabeth A. Adams

Marva V. Goodson

Jennifer E. Cobbina

NYU Press

This chapter describes women’s perceptions of the pains of prison and their identity development while incarcerated. The 44 women in the sample had histories of substance abuse and felony offending and were from rural, small town, suburban, and urban areas. Interviewers encouraged the women to take the lead in shaping their life stories. Revealing the importance of relationships to the women, inductive analysis of the life stories showed that distress over the inability to fill perceived obligations to relatives and separation from children were the most commonly mentioned pains of incarceration. Relevant to narrative identity theory, increased spirituality was the most common form of making good of negative prison experiences. Relevant to cognitive transformation theory, some incarcerated women pictured themselves in new prosocial roles in their families, grabbed onto hooks for change in the prison, and came to see criminal behavior as negative. Findings suggest that women see themselves as essential to their children and other relatives, and that prisons should strive to provide opportunities for women to not only increase their spirituality, but also to develop agency and communion and to support women’s identity as caregivers and mothers.

Keywords:   women, prison, identity, pains of incarceration, narrative identity, cognitive transformation

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