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Pathways to Prison: Impact of Victimization in the Lives of Incarcerated Women

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2004
94 pages
This study examined victimization as a risk factor for criminal involvement among incarcerated women.
Some theorists have contended that women’s involvement in criminal activities can be attributed to social problems that often result in the physical, sexual, and psychological victimization of these women. As the female incarceration rate continues to swell in the United States, researchers have been called upon to study the gender-specific motivations and needs of female offenders. The current study answers this call by examining the links between female victimization and women’s involvement in crime. Researchers interviewed 60 women incarcerated in a maximum-security correctional facility for various offenses including drug offenses, property offenses, child abuse and neglect, and violent offenses. The interviews focused on the offender’s perspective of the victimization experienced in her life, as well as her history of family and peer relationships, substance use, and criminal involvement. A grounded-theory approach guided the qualitative analysis of the interview transcripts, which were analyzed with the assistance of the ATLAS/ti software program. The findings revealed several major ways in which victimization impacted the female offenders, including the victimization’s effects on health and psychosocial functioning. In some cases, the victimization led directly to the commission of the offense in that the women were coerced into the criminal activity. The cumulative impact of multiple victimizations as a contributing factor in women’s criminal involvement is discussed and case studies are provided to illustrate main findings. Implications for practice, policy, and prevention are discussed. Future analysis should continue to focus on the relationship between female victimization and female crime. References, tables, figure, appendix

Date Published: September 1, 2004