Although there is plentiful research on the impact of marriage, employment and the military on desistance from criminal behaviour in the lives of men, far less is known about the factors most important to women’s desistance. Imprisoned women are far more likely than their male counterparts to be the primary caretakers of children before their incarceration, and are far more likely to intend to reunify with their children upon their release from incarceration. This book focuses on the role of mothering in women’s desistance from criminal behaviour.
Drawing on original research, this book explores the nature of mothering during incarceration, how mothers maintain a relationship with their children from behind bars and the ways in which mothering makes desistance more or less likely after incarceration. It outlines the ways in which race, gender, class, nationality, sexuality, gender identity, and other characteristics affect mothering and desistance, and explores the tensions between individual and system-level factors in the consideration of desistance.
This book suggests that any discussion of desistance, particularly for women, must move beyond the traditional focus on individual characteristics and decision-making. Such a focus overlooks the role played by context and systems which undermine both women's attempts to be mothers and their attempts to desist. By contrast, in the tradition of Beth Richie’s Compelled to Crime, this book explores both the trees and the forests, and the quantum in-between, in a way that aims for lasting societal and individual changes.
Table of Contents
Introduction, 1. Incarcerated women and mothers around the world, 2. Methods and theory, 3. Women and mothers coming home, 4. Mothering, desistance, and redemption, 5. The way forward
Venezia Michalsen is an Associate Professor of Justice Studies at Montclair State University (MSU) in New Jersey. Before coming to MSU, she worked at the Women’s Prison Association (WPA) in New York City, an organization which provides direct services to women who have come into contact with the criminal justice system. She earned her B.A. at Barnard College, and her Ph.D. in Criminal Justice with a focus on Women and Justice, from the CUNY Graduate Center.
"Venezia Michalsen's new book Mothering and Desistance is a wonderful, impressive and moving study of the overlooked question of the conditions under which women desist from crime. Going back to Shadd Maruna's classic work Making Good, Michalsen correctly points out that men's desistance has been researched far more often than women's -- even though her data show that women are growing worldwide, and disproportionately in the United States, as a percentage of incarcerated populations. Her research is impressive insofar as Mothering and Desistance is based on interviews with close to 100 women; it persuasively shows that a large proportion of formerly incarcerated women are mothers, and that motherhood is a huge contributing factor influencing women's desistance. Michalsen's book is uniquely researched and well-framed, and will be a highly cited study on this topic. I am excited about this book's publication and would use it immediately in my classes on criminology, deviance, gender and crime and the sociology of punishment."
- Lynn Chancer, former co-editor of Theoretical Criminology
"Dr Michalsen's book is both important and makes a valuable contribution to the literature in number of ways. First, she pulls together a remarkable amount of research and descriptive work to paint a very detailed and compelling global picture on the current state of incarcerated women. Second, her concentration on desistance (and especially the specific dynamic between mothers and their children) as opposed to the more narrow, less nuanced but more commonly used measure of recidivism reduction makes this a significant addition to the criminological literature on desistance. Finally, her policy suggestions in her "what is to be done" section is much stronger than the versions in most academic criminological work. Her experience as a practitioner in the Women's Prison Association as well as her current academic researc