Pains of incarceration: The stigmatization of incarcerated mothers
LE3 .A278 2013
Bachelor of Arts
Gender roles and identity are some of the most important forces that determine who we are. In prison, it is common for one’s identity to be stripped away through a series of degradation ceremonies and constant humiliations. This thesis investigates how gender-based incarceration policies have targeted women and, even more harshly, mothers. While the term ‘jail’ refers to an institution which houses those who have been convicted under provincial sentencing, the term ‘prison’ is used for federal offenders. A combination of stigma and labeling theory was utilized as complementary frameworks within a feminist perspective, producing a theoretical approach to the issue of social stigmatization of maternal incarceration. Through qualitative research, including interviews with two mothers who had previously been in a provincial institution for a minimum of six months and two Elizabeth Fry Society employees, my work explains why incarcerated mothers are a targeted cohort and how the development of social stigma is linked to criminal and social background. In addition, this study uncovers ways in which the mother can further enhance her family relationships after incarceration within the community. Ultimately, it was found that society plays a large role in determining the label that is placed on those in trouble with the law, but it is also up to the mother to determine the role of that label in her life. The investigation determined that the oppression that mothers face after jail is a direct reflection of self-stigmatization developed by the mothers who arguably forfeit their opportunities as being a respected mother in society.
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