Hard times: Women’s pathways to crime and incarceration

Date: February 3, 2014
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South Africa has been described as being amongst the most ‘crime-ridden and crime-concerned’ countries in the world (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, 2002). Much of the violence is directed against women and indeed, most women offenders themselves are victims of violence (Chipkin & Bgqulunga, 2008). Yet what we know about crime, justice, and punishment in South Africa is based almost entirely on frameworks that have been developed to explain the experiences of men. Almost nothing is known about women incarcerated anywhere on the African continent, including South Africa (Haffejee, Vetten & Greyling, 2005; Hoffman-Wanderer, 2007; Vetten, 2008).1 Little is known about the circumstances that lead women to commit crimes and the way in which these circumstances interact, leading to particular patterns of offending. Nor is much known about the way in which female offenders experience prison life or the impact of their incarceration on their health, well-being, and their connections to people in their lives.
Findings from other countries indicate that women’s experiences of crime and justice differ from men’s and that studies of male offenders have only limited application to women.2 Similarly, findings from fully industrialised countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada may not be replicated in South Africa, particularly given apartheid’s unique and lingering impact on social, economic, and political aspects of people’s lives (Seidman, 1999). To date, very few studies of women’s experiences of incarceration in South Africa exist, save largely descriptive efforts by government agencies.3 Those that do exist have given very little attention to the impact of incarceration on the women themselves as well as the people in their lives.
It is for this reason that in 2009, the Gender, Health & Justice Research Unit embarked on a study to explore the reasons why women come into conflict with the law and end up in the correctional system.

ISBN: 978-0-7992-2488-7
Publisher: University of Cape Town
Year of Publication: 2012
Download : 18024_hard_times.pdf

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