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“It’s Just Not Safe—Not For a Girl”: Violence in the Lives of Incarcerated Women Open Access

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This project investigates life-history interviews from previously incarcerated Illinois women that are published on the website Women + Prison: A Site for Resistance. I use grounded coding to identify violence as a salient theme that emerges throughout the stories of women involved in the criminal justice system, both before and during incarceration. Particularly, I expose the relationship between gender violence and incarceration by discussing how gender violence facilitates incarceration and how incarceration facilitates gender violence. I identified several pre-incarceration subthemes that expose how violence leads to criminalization and incarceration, which include the following pathways: 1) drugs, 2) street life, and 3) self defense. Upon incarceration, gender violence was perpetuated in the following ways: 1) sexual assault, 2) sexualized surveillance, 3) strip searches, 4) shackling pregnant inmates, and 5) dehumanizing treatment. Both gender violence and incarceration, I argue, are tools of social control that function to maintain power over women. Using a feminist criminological analytic framework, I explore these themes and find that they are supported by the current literature on female offenders.

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