Relational violence in women's prisons: How women describe interpersonal violence and gender. Women and Criminal Justice. 19(4):267-285. [EN]
Interviews with 33 paroled women living in California in 2005-2006 focused on links between prison violence, gender, and interpersonal relationships.
Based on these interviews, the author develops two theories regarding relational violence among women in prison. First, women attempt to cope with separation from family and friends and the experience of social isolation in prison by developing and maintaining friendships with other inmates who become girlfriends and pseudo-families. Interviewees described a type of nuclear family that includes a mom, dad, and children. Relational aggression stems from efforts to control and maintain such nuclear families for personal emotional needs. When the desired bonds are disrupted, malicious gossip and ostracism occur in an effort to undermine the social lives of "enemies," so as to inflict the pain of social isolation. Among the women interviewed, social isolation is the weapon of choice, rather than physical violence. Although the women viewed relational violence as more civilized than physical violence, they acknowledged that social isolation caused intense emotional stress and mental torment. A second theory developed from the interviews focuses on the women's efforts to development relationships with male correctional officers. In the interviews, the women described the male correctional officers as naive and vulnerable to seduction ploys by fellow inmates. The author reasons, however, that the women regularly fight for attention from the only men available, and some correctional officers take advantage of the women's social and sexual deprivation. Instead of viewing the male correctional guards as the aggressors and predators in interactions with fellow inmates, however, the women chose to view the guards as victims of the seductive wiles of the inmates, who initiated and controlled the inmate-guard interactions in seductive games of competition and relational violence with other inmates. (abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, www.ncjrs.gov).
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