A Life-History Approach to Community Reintegration: Female Ex-Offenders' Experiences of Facilitators and Barriers of Successful Community Reintegration
Research suggests that the experiences of female offenders differ greatly from their male counterparts; however, because females only make up a small proportion of offenders in North America, community reintegration programs often focus on male offenders (Belknap, 2007). This shortcoming stimulated the current study, which was conducted to better understand the experiences of reintegration for female offenders as told by the women themselves. Using life-history interviews with five female ex-offenders, accessed through the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan, in-depth stories about reintegration were created from the perspective of those closest to these experiences (Patton, 2002). The data were analyzed using a narrative analysis approach in which stories were re-written in chronological order. Each story depicts a single character and underlines the events and meanings prescribed by the participants themselves. Results indicated several shared themes across participants’ stories that referred pathways to crime, experiences during and after incarceration, facilitators and barriers to successful reintegration and resilience. Whether participants were first-time or repeat offenders, results offered some support for past research regarding pathways to crime and difficulties with community reintegration; however, various unique and distinct experiences emerged. The nature of the study allowed for an in-depth exploration of issues including family reunification, stigma and securing stable employment, and gave participants a chance to share their stories. These stories suggest various implications for research and practice such as one-on-one counselling, child advocacy and concrete release planning, which may lead to improved support for female offenders during and after incarceration.
Community Reintegration, Female Offenders, Life-History Analysis
Master of Arts (M.A.)