Offending Women & Boys to Offenders
In the article: Boys to Offenders: Damaging Masculinity and Traumatic Victimization, the research question explores how boys and young men’s life stories coincide with their pathways towards crime. The hypothesis suggests that incarcerated men have similar experiences and life stories as women offenders, such as loss and abandonment, violent victimization, and secondary victimization in the form of witnessing violence. The methodology in the qualitative study used Semi-structured interview protocols analyzing the narratives of the sample. The sample explored were the lives of 25 adult incarcerated men in two medium security prisons from March 2012 to February 2013. Other demographics about the sample includes: one Latino, one Asian Pacific Islander, eight African American men (three of which committed murders, two for drug sales, and a young male that was in for violating parole), and 15 White men (four of which committed murders, one incarcerated for abusing infant, five for burglary, one for assaulting a police officer, and one for drug sales.)
In the study, the dependent variable is the type of offense committed by the incarcerated men. The independent variables studied were the risk factors that reflected victimization such as the neighborhoods the men grew up, painful memories, substance abuse, involvement in delinquency and gang affiliation, familial and romantic relationships, and educational and work histories. The findings suggest the men experienced early parental abandonment, early physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by a parent, drug addiction and alcohol abuse. Some men said they used drugs and alcohol as early as 10 or 11 and sold drugs at that age. Some were introduced to sex by their fathers—even one father paying for oral sex for his son. Many men were sexually abused in their childhood either by their Father, Uncle, Mother, older babysitter, sister, local pastor, female employee at a juvenile center, or older women that exchanged drugs for sex. Other men witnessed father’s abusing their mothers. For instance, one man said when he was 14, he fought his father when he physically abused his mother. One father was seen murdering another man. Some men characterized their fathers as promiscuous and so too they adopted that promiscuity—even one man having 19 children from different women, and another having 13 children. Similarly, the men acted out the street lifestyle of their fathers or their role models that done such as selling drugs or perpetrating violence. The men acted out their own violence from past experiences, onto their wives or intimate partners. In one example, a man became so enraged with his partner after she pulled a knife on him, and he murdered her through drowning and then hid her naked body in a potato sack. One man murdered his best friend when he found out him and his partner were having an affair. Often the men covered up their emotions and vulnerabilities as to elucidate their street credibility if they adopted a lifestyle of violence in the neighborhoods.
The implications for the findings suggest there is a need for legitimate pro-social friendships and support because many of the men felt loneliness, isolation, or abandonment. Many men had to grow up quickly to deal with the harsh realities of their childhood. Thus, the men did not have a childhood at all. Additionally, there is a need to stop socializing boys to act out toughness through violence, bullying, and other controlling acts to perform masculinity. Because the study focuses on the history of the men as far as family, friends, and other personal experiences, the study utilizes a Humanistic perspective and feminist theory to gain insight and understand the common childhood experiences and how the men’s incarceration reflects the very real problems they faced.
Similarly, the article “Offending Women”: A Double Entendre, the research question asks about the causes of women’s criminal offending. The research utilizes Feminist Criminology theory in summarizing and critiquing 19 articles of offending women over the last 100 years. The methodology of the research was the collection of articles on offending women. The researcher notes that little research has been done on this population which highlights the lack of understanding the population. In the data collected, the researcher finds that 16 of the articles were written by women (and the three most recent written by men which tended to view offending women as immoral in a sexist framework.) The articles were devoid of contextualizing factors of race, trauma and victimization; and when race is mentioned, it is in a racist manner. But, the researcher finds that the historical data had much to offer when describing other common factors. The physical, psychological, and sociological risk factors that influence offending men are similar to the variables in the article on offending women. Likewise, the dependent variable of women offenders is the type of offense committed; and independent variables are the socio-economic adversity like the male offenders such as educational and employment histories, and mental and physical health. Consequently, the demographics of the samples examined suggest that the majority of women in the 20th century were incarcerated for public drunkenness and lewdness, particularly prostitution or any “immoral sex” act because the system attempts to control women’s sexuality. This was related to the high incidences of venereal diseases among the women.
Contrasting from men’s prisons, women’s prisons looked like campuses while theirs appeared custodial. But women’s reformatories/prisons were still awful conditions, and the prison system justified the lack of resources towards them because there was a lower prison population for women than incarcerated men who received more resources. Much of the female offender population had eye dental problems because of lack of resources (which would make it harder to attain employment.) Other findings of the research reflect the hypothesis that many women prisoners, like incarcerated men, exhibited poor mental and physical health, had very low levels of education; and the majority were under the age of 30. Additionally, the majority of the female prisoner population worked prior to incarceration; and White European immigrants and African American women were disproportionately incarcerated in the samples studied.
Unlike men depicted in the first article, the Offending Women research found that there are high incidences of epilepsy among women’s prison population. To “help” women prisoners, the goal was often to train them to be domestic workers, like a maid, housewife, a good mother. This is probably not the case for men’s prisons, where men are trained how to be a good housekeeper or good husband and father. The implications of the findings first suggest that further researcher is needed to understand the offending women’s population. Second, once risk factors and common experiences are addressed, prevention is necessary to be implemented. Although incarceration may not be prevented unless sexist, classist, and racist frameworks are dismantled and certain types of offenses do not lead to incarceration—until then imprisonment can be prevented if our societies goals are to provide basic needs to all people such as education, safe housing, mental health and physical health care. Lastly, there is a need to create a culture that does not punish and instead is a culture of love that also encourages healthy emotional attachment to family, friends, and form pro-social relationships.