Why do some women desist from crime, whereas other women do not? What are the types of family relations that (formerly) incarcerated women have, during and after detention, and how do these relations impact their criminal careers? What ‘research gaps’ exist in research on incarcerated women? These and other questions were discussed in November during the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) in Washington DC. Elanie Rodermond had organized a Spinhuis-session on the occasion of the publication of the book ‘Lives of Incarcerated Women: An International Perspective’, edited by Candace Kruttschnitt (also this year’s president of the ASC) and Catrien Bijleveld and with contributions from many countries (amongst others the Netherlands, the US, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Denmark).
Lives of Incarcerated Women shows that the lives of incarcerated women are complex. Contrary to what might be expected based on most criminological theories, many women have a late onset of crime. Violent relationships are often mentioned as a key factor. During detention, women with children are struggling with their maternal role. Children of incarcerated mothers face all sorts of problems. Desistance appears difficult to achieve, and it seems that women who have lots of support, from a partner but also their wider social network, are better able to desist from crime than women who lack these types of support. At the same time, it remains unclear how crime prevention and desistance within this group of women can be promoted. The decision to desist in itself seems insufficient to bring about lasting change, given the fragile situation of many of these women.
Within the coming months, a research agenda at the international level will be developed, allowing researchers from different countries to go round the table “virtually”. Within this first period, research plans will focus on examining the influence of (having) family members on criminal careers (positive and negative) and the period that follows immediately after incarceration.