Motherhood on the margins: rehabilitation and subjectivity among female parolees in Hawaii

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2003-08
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Brown, Marilyn M.
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Johnson, David
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Sociology
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
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This dissertation examines the structure and ideology of late-modern rehabilitative practices and the role they play in the production of gendered subjectivity. The transformative project of modern penality attempts to produce a middle-class subjectivity without providing the middle class context that supports it. I collected data from the parole case file records of 240 women offenders on parole in the State of Hawaiʻi as of May 2001. In addition, I conducted in-depth interviews with 20 female parolees about their experiences before and after prison, with special regard to their parenting experiences. Women parolees in Hawaiʻi lack education and job skills. They have high rates of substance abuse which tend to be highly implicated in the offenses for which they were imprisoned. Despite their unconventional lifestyles, most women in this study are mothers and retain very strong commitments to motherhood. Motherhood becomes both a source of motivation and vulnerability for these women. They often find themselves judged as mothers as well as offenders. The rehabilitative strategies enlisted by the prison are aimed at altering the consciousness of these women and producing new selves who are capable of self-governance and making the right choices. But upon leaving prison, women parolees find the material and social aspects of their lives unchanged; substantial numbers have problems on parole leading to their return to prison. This dissertation contributes to the governmentality literature in tracing how penal strategies produced gendered subjects.
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xi, 292 leaves
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Sociology; no. 4336
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