(Wo)men in the Middle: The Gendered Role of Supporting Prisoners

Booth, Natalie; Masson, Isla and Dakri, Ferzana (2023). (Wo)men in the Middle: The Gendered Role of Supporting Prisoners. In: Masson, Isla and Booth, Natalie eds. The Routledge Handbook of Women's Experiences of Criminal Justice. Routledge International Handbooks. London: Routledge, pp. 413–424.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003202295-36


Prisons are, by their very nature, gendered institutions. Despite women making up a small percentage of the prison population (House of Commons Library, 2020), those supporting prisoners are generally women - especially mothers and partners (Booth and Masson, 2021; Codd, 2008). In understanding women’s experiences of criminal justice, it is prudent to consider the women who are punished by the system despite not being incarcerated themselves. This chapter sheds light on these women’s experiences. First, through a review of the growing international literature that illustrates how the economic and relational implications as well as the health, stigma and care for children of prisoners are overwhelmingly experienced by women in the community attempting to keep their families together. Following this, a case study showcasing the excellent work of one organisation, The Straight Path Resettlement Project (SPR) in Leicester, England, discusses Ferzana Dakri’s experience of working in the community with ‘BAME’ Muslim women who have imprisoned loved ones. In viewing prison as sites of punishment, and appreciating how these pains extend beyond those incarcerated, this chapter draws attention to the multiple ways that women supporting prisoners are simultaneously harmed.

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