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Severed Connections: An exploration of the impact of imprisonment on womenʼs familial and social connectedness

Goulding, D. (2004) Severed Connections: An exploration of the impact of imprisonment on womenʼs familial and social connectedness. Centre for Social and Community Research, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia.

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    Abstract

    In 2002 Lotterywest made funds available for a joint project between Ruah Women’s Support Service, the Social Justice Commission of the Uniting Church of Australia and the Centre for Social and Community Research, Murdoch University. The aim of the project was to explore the experiences of women in prison and their broader connections with society and family – areas that have historically received little attention. Following two years of close research with women in metropolitan and regional prisons, families of women in prison and recently released women, we are now pleased to present the findings of this study.

    This study recognises the social and cultural diversity of its participants and the women have accordingly been grouped into six categories.

    • Young, mainly non-Aboriginal, women, repeat offenders with chaotic lifestyles and no stable family or community connections.

    • Urban Aboriginal women with strong kinship connections but questionable connections to mainstream society, often repeat offenders.

    • Mainly middle class women, typically first time offenders engaged in white collar crime which is often work related.

    • Aboriginal women from remote communities and regional towns with strong kinship and community connections, equally likely to be first time or repeat offenders.

    • Foreign national women convicted while on visitors’ visas to Australia, usually for drug importation. They suffer extreme social isolation and are spread across several socio-economic and cultural groups.

    • Long-term and life sentenced women, also spread across several socio-economic and cultural groups.

    The research shows that, although coming from vastly different backgrounds, these women share certain common experiences including histories of abusive relationships and mental illness. The women, many who are parents or caregivers, also share strong concerns regarding their ability to reconnect with children, family and community upon release. The factors making reconnection difficult include homelessness, social isolation, addictions, mental illness, abuse, self harm and suicide. And for some of the women in this study there was the threat of deportation.

    The study, while giving due attention to the diverse backgrounds of women, examines their common experiences, identifies their concerns and considers the practical implications on both a personal level and in a broader social context. In doing so, it highlights the need for effective strategies to connect women with society both in prison and post-prison.

    Publication Type: Report
    Murdoch Affiliation: Centre for Social and Community Research
    Publisher: Centre for Social and Community Research, Murdoch University
    Copyright: Centre for Social and Community Research, Murdoch University
    URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/10995
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