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NCJ Number: 200410 Find in a Library
Title: Reconsidering the Pseudo-Family/Gang Gender Distinction in Prison Research
Journal: Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology  Volume:18  Issue:1  Dated:Spring 2003  Pages:15-23
Author(s): Craig J. Forsyth; Rhonda D. Evans
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 9
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examined the discourse used by female inmates to describe their experiences within prison social groupings generally referred to as pseudo-families among researchers; these pseudo-families were compared with the functions of male prison gangs.
Abstract: Pseudo-families, as depicted by researchers (Giallombardo, 1966; Heffernan, 1972; Owen, 1998; Pollock 2002; and Ward and Kassebaum, 1965), are structures of social relationships formed among women in prison to resemble family structures in the broader society. Such families are viewed as consisting of parents, siblings, grandparents, and even aunt or uncle roles. Primary data for the current study were obtained from interviews with 24 inmates and 4 staff persons at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women. All of the women interviewed had served 20 or more years in prison, and all but one had at least one child. In addition to the interview, each woman was given a journal in which to record any feelings or perceptions relevant to the research. The terminology used by the women to describe the social structure and interactions of the close-knit groups of which they were members paralleled family roles, with family roles tending to be based on the ages of group members. Middle-aged adults acted as parents and spouses, younger inmates were viewed as the children, and older inmates acted as grandparents. Functions of these pseudo-families included emotional support, economic support, mechanisms for coercion and aggression, and protection from intimidation and assault. The authors contend that the pseudo-families in female prisons serve the same functions that gangs serve in male prisons. They further argue that any distinction made by researchers between the female and male prison social groups is due more to stereotypical depictions of gender roles than to the actual behaviors and experiences of the male and female inmates in the context of these social groups. 30 references
Main Term(s): Corrections research
Index Term(s): Female gangs; Female inmates; Gang member attitudes; Gangs; Gender issues; Male female offender comparisons; Social organization
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