Negotiating Successful Transitions: "Criminalized" Indigenous Women in Saskatchewan
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Indigenous women are over-incarcerated in settler colonial Canadian prisons and are now considered the fastest growing federal inmate population within the country. While such trends are not new and have been the subject of much scholarly debate, the growing severity of this reality has had lethal implications for many Indigenous women, inside and outside of prisons. This thesis examines five Indigenous women’s personal histories with the criminal justice system, their views on the effectiveness of mainstream and Indigenous based prison programs, and their post-release transitions back into urban spaces in Saskatchewan. This research is a qualitative study that sought a deeper understanding of the issues that formerly incarcerated Indigenous women in Saskatchewan faced as they negotiated their transitions from prisons to their respective urban communities. I conducted five open-ended interviews with formerly incarcerated Indigenous women and drew insights from their perceptions and responses to the Government of Canada’s continued emphasis on “Indigenizing” the criminal justice system, with an examination of their own views on “successful reintegration”. The findings from interviews with my research partners suggest that the primary focus on Indigenizing the carceral system by incorporating Indigenous cultures and traditions throughout its structure is not only flawed in its conception, but also in its execution. I argue that the scholarship examining the experiences of criminalized Indigenous women must move past constructing them as culturally deficient individuals that require healing, while proposing the Indigenization of prisons and the criminal justice system as the primary solution. In the context of settler colonialism, discourses of healing through culture (inside prisons) becomes an extension of settler colonial modes of social control because the myriad of social, political, and economic issues that contribute to Indigenous women’s criminalized statuses are constructed simply as Indigenous “problems,” requiring “cultural” solutions, rather than a result of the ongoing failure to provide Indigenous women in Saskatchewan with the social, economic, and cultural supports they require outside of prison. Recommendations from this research also suggest that supports for formerly incarcerated Indigenous women must be provided without the criminal justice system’s control, influence, and ongoing surveillance.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeKaye, Julie; Snyder, Emily; Waldram, James; Lambert, Simon
Copyright DateMay 2021
Indigenous women, Criminalization, Settler Colonialism, Prisons