WOMEN, CRIME AND CULTURE: LIFE STORIES AND ETHNOGRAPHY IN THE RESIDENTIAL PARENTING PROGRAM AT THE WASHINGTON (STATE) CORRECTIONS CENTER FOR WOMEN.
Wells, Robert Marshall
Caughey, John L.
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation explores the Residential Parenting Program (RPP) at the Washington State Corrections Center for Women. In this unusual, experimental program, imprisoned women are allowed to keep their babies and small children with them during their prison sentences. Typically, a mother and child are released together before the child reaches the age of three. Data on the RPP were gathered, first, through extensive participant observation research in which an effort was made to learn how this "nursery program" functions on a day to day basis. Person-centered informal and formal interviews also were used to obtain information on how various people connected to the program, now and in the past, including administrators, service providers, staff, correctional officers, other women prisoners, and, especially, incarcerated mothers participating in the program, viewed the functioning of the RPP and its benefits and problems. Detailed life stories of some 20 of the mothers were also obtained. These stories show how the women construct their past experiences in the drug world, how they describe everyday life in the RPP and how they articulate the hopes that they have for the future. The dissertation also explores the process through which women and children leave the prison and return to society. In general, all those associated with the program view it positively, and early returns suggest that the program is quite effective in helping women and their children make successful transitions back into society. This investigation offers insights into a unique and innovative rehabilitative program that aims to halt an ongoing cycle of criminality, which shows no signs of abating within a large segment of U.S. women who tend to be at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder, regardless of other demographic characteristics.