Voices From Within

Voices From Within: Women in Conflict with the Law

EVELYN K. SOMMERS
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 180
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt1287z21
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  • Book Info
    Voices From Within
    Book Description:

    Voices from Within demonstrates the importance of conducting separate studies of male and female lawbreakers, including women as a focus of study; of relying on subjective perspectives to distinguish amd appropriately address differences inherent in the criminal population; and of reconceptualizing of the notion of motivation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2354-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    PAULA J. CAPLAN

    Like most people, I preferred to keep my distance from women prisoners – in fact, I preferred to avoid even thinking about them. Denying the shared humanity between ourselves and those who are marginalized as women prisoners is one of the ways we maintain a feeling of our own specialness or goodness. Evelyn Sommers plunges in and gets close to fourteen women prisoners, inspiring us to take a deep breath and take that plunge ourselves, if only in our minds and imaginations as we read this book. We don’t know what we shall feel as we pass through the doorway...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Women Knowing; Knowing Women
    (pp. 3-13)

    Women in conflict with the law have their own ideas about why and how they became lawbreakers. They’ve lived through the experience of lawbreaking, and they know about it.¹ They have survived wrenching situations in which they were moved to act in ways that they sometimes angrily justify and sometimes profoundly regret. They have struggled with the social systems and structures that turn them from lawbreakers into criminals.² They face the reality of who they are as individuals every time they look into the mirror.

    Women are rarely credited with having any real knowledge, even knowledge of themselves.³ People in...

  6. 2 From Separation to Connection
    (pp. 14-24)

    One of our social structures, the judicial system, separates people into groups, the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside,’ the ‘good’ and the ‘bad,’ the victims and the criminals. The physical separation of people through imprisonment is one way in which we define who we are in the social sphere. The segment of society comprising people who have not been incarcerated tends to exclude people who have been incarcerated.

    Separation is not without its advantages. Our whole system of learning is based on separation, which has been pragmatic if not always useful for full understanding; it is easier to manage separate disciplines...

  7. 3 The Women’s Words: Need
    (pp. 25-46)

    Marianne, Jacqueline, Connie, Arlene, and Rose believe that their lawbreaking was a function of need. All of the Black women interviewed (Jacqueline, Arlene, and Rose) explained their conflict with the law in this way. The wordneedwas selected from the women’s words to capture their stories because it can be used to refer either to material (financial or physical) ‘wanting’ or to emotional ‘wanting.’ For the five women who indicated that they broke the law because of need – sometimes a feeling of ‘desperate need’ – the physical and emotional domains were bound together.

    Four of the five women...

  8. 4 The Women’s Words: Disconnection and the Influence of Others
    (pp. 47-75)

    Doreen and Bonnie said that their mothers were responsible for their conflicts with the law. As they related their stories, it became evident that they meant that adisconnectionfrom their mothers had eventually led to their lawbreaking activity. Describing a situation similarly involving disconnection, Margaret said that her baby’s death was responsible for her problems. Penny implicated a situation that involved disconnection from both her parents – their divorce – as a critical factor in her conflict with the law. Sarah named drugs, money, and the influence of persons whom she loved. As with the others, the threat of...

  9. 5 The Women’s Words: Visible Anger
    (pp. 76-100)

    Anger was the catalyst for the activities that brought Vicki, Doris, and Danielle into conflict with the law. For both Vicki and Doris, anger became their primary mode of expression when other emotions became too overwhelming or could not be expressed. Danielle’s anger grew out of repeated violations of trust and repeated abuse.

    At nineteen, Vicki was the youngest participant in the research. She was an Aboriginal Canadian, raised on a reserve, and her native language was her first language.

    Vicki was raised by her maternal grandparents. Her mother worked in a city in the ‘south,’ and sent money for...

  10. 6 The Women’s Words: Fear
    (pp. 101-110)

    Fear was implicit in the stories of all the women I interviewed. For one woman, Lynne, fear for her own safety was transformed into a fear of her own aggressiveness, which became a reality when she fatally injured her foster daughter.

    Lynne, a Caucasian woman of twenty-nine, described herself as ‘dependent,’ and as someone who copes ‘by just going on.’ She said she always felt like a ‘misfit’ in her family and that she didn’t belong. Her only sense of belonging came from her strong association with the church.

    Lynne had been severely abused and suffered profound psychological effects from...

  11. 7 Relationship, Empowerment, and Lawbreaking
    (pp. 111-121)

    Hearing the women’s reasons for their conflicts with the law and reflecting on the contributing factors that were evident in their stories led me to a second stage of understanding. Keeping in mind women’s developmental needs and their position in the social structure, I studied the network of feelings, thoughts, events, and people that the women discussed, and uncovered two implicit themes that appeared in each woman’s story. These themes, the centrality of relationships to the women’s lives and the struggle for instrumentality or empowerment, are the common threads uniting their stories. These themes were evident throughout the women’s experiences...

  12. 8 Reconceptualizing Women’s Lawbreaking
    (pp. 122-136)

    InThou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society’s Betrayal of the Child, Alice Miller discusses Quentin Bell’s biography of Virginia Woolf. Bell describes Woolf’s ‘schizophrenic episodes,’ beginning at the age of twelve, and her suicide, at the age of fifty-nine. He also reveals that, from the age of four to puberty, she was ‘sexually molested’ on an almost daily basis by a much older half-brother. Bell concludes that he doesn’t know whether the trauma had any permanent effect on Woolf. In response to this, Miller comments: ‘How can an author who describes with great empathy Woolfs trauma and the entire dishonest...

  13. APPENDIX A: Research ‘Design’
    (pp. 137-139)
  14. APPENDIX B: Establishing Trustworthiness
    (pp. 140-142)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 143-150)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 151-162)
  17. Index
    (pp. 163-167)