CHAPTER THREE LITERATURE REVIEW
This chapter focuses on the historical explanation of female criminality and studies on the experiences of women regarding crime. Specifically, literature on the experiences of women regarding the following are discussed: same-sex sexual relationships in female prisons and the history of this phenomenon over the years, female prisoners and abuse, female offending and incarceration in South Africa and the intersectionality of gender, race, class and crime.
THE HISTORY OF FEMALE CRIMINALITY
Gora (1982) identifies two major schools of thought that have provided historical explanations of female crime. The earlier school, the traditional school of thought, is found in the writings of scholars spanning a period of approximately sixty-three years, starting from the early 1900s up to the early part of the 1970s. Gora (1982) categorised the works of Thomas, Lombroso, Pollak, Cowie, Cowie and Slater, Freud, Konopka, and Vedder and Somerville as belonging to the traditional school of thought. This school regarded the etiology of female crime as being rooted mainly in psychological and physiological factors. The traditional school of thought also recognised the contribution of emotional factors to female criminality. The second school of thought, sex role theory, stressed that social and cultural factors, in particular, sex-role socialisation, are relevant in explaining female crime (Gora, 1982: 8–9). These schools of thought are discussed in more detail below.
The traditional school of thought
The late nineteenth century heralded research into the causes of female crime. Cesare Lombroso’s work, The female offender (1895), was regarded as the first attempt at writing a text on females and crime. The theory of evolution served as the basis for Lombroso’s ideas. Lombroso believed that criminals are a product of the failure or inability to evolve in the same way as other (non-criminal) humans. This inability of criminals to evolve causes them to become “atavistic”. According to Dastille (2011: 289), atavism occurs when a human characteristic reappears after several (human) generations of absence. Lombroso and Ferrero believed that atavism was the cause of female criminal behaviour. In other words, the criminals become primitive (Valier, 2007: 145). In Lombroso’s view (cited in Dastille, 2011: 289), criminals are more primitive than non-criminals and they (the criminals) occupy a lower rung of the evolutionary ladder as compared to non-criminals. It was Lombroso’s contention that female criminals occupied an even lower level on the evolutionary scale than male criminals and, hence, they should be regarded as born criminals and sometimes even monsters. According to Lombroso and Ferrero (cited in Smart, 1977: 32), in criminal females, natural female traits were replaced by “strong passions and intensely erotic tendencies, much muscular strength and a superior intelligence for the conception and execution of evil”. Lombroso emphasised that the criminality of females is dependent on their physical characteristics. Lombroso concluded that those females who possess the following traits, namely, larger cranial cavities, larger and heavier jaw bones, larger cheekbones, moles and hairiness, were naturally criminally inclined. Lombroso believed that the traits mentioned above were masculine traits and, hence, they should not be present in a female. Females are supposed to be “delicate” in physique. According to Lombroso, a deviation from this norm denoted inherent criminal tendencies in females (Klein, 1976: 62).
Lombroso’s work on female criminality laid the foundation for the work of William Isaac Thomas. Thomas incorporated psychological and social causes into Lombroso’s discourse on the crimes committed by females. In his publication, Unadjusted girl, Thomas regarded female criminality as an expected response to certain social circumstances. Thomas stressed the relationship between social controls and the behaviour of individuals. Thomas believed that the behaviour of humans is dependent on the circumstance(s) in which they find themselves (in Gora, 1982: 4). Thomas’ approach to theorising was in line with the basis of what later became known as symbolic interactionism. Thomas argued that traditional society was experiencing what he considered to be social disorganisation, and that the influence of social control on women had reduced, thus, resulting in criminal females (Klein, 1976: 59). Thomas attributed the cause of female crime to the need for excitement and adventure on the part of the females (Gora, 1982: 4–5).
Sigmund Freud further established the connection between human physique and crime. In particular, he established the relationship between psychological traits, biological characteristics, social structural factors and crime. Freud placed a high priority on the socialisation of people, arguing that socialisation was the determining factor as to whether an individual became a criminal or not. Freud explained that socialisation creates an equilibrium between the urges and the drives of individuals. Improper socialisation destabilised this equilibrium and this, in turn, resulted in criminality or deviance. Freud used psychoanalysis to trace the etiology of female criminal behaviour to early childhood trauma. He attributed the cause of female crime to a sexual anomaly in the female criminals. Freud referred to this as “penis envy”, contending that the realisation of the absence of a penis or the presence of an “incomplete” or “inferior” sexual organ, the desire and futile attempts to obtain a penis and the negative emotions generated as a result of these futile attempts resulted in females committing crimes, particularly those females who were unable to negate these negative emotions through socialisation. The “lack” in female biology propelled them to want to be like men by committing crime. Inherent in Freud’s argument is the premise that crime is the domain of males (Klein, 1976: 61; Gora, 1982: 5).
Otto Pollak’s, The criminality of women (1950), made significant contributions to the discourse on female criminality. Pollak expanded on the physiological explanation of female criminality put forward by Lombroso by arguing that female crimes are both “hidden” and sexually motivated. In addition, Pollak viewed the biological phases of female lives and crime as being connected, arguing that these biological phases, such as menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, influence female criminal behaviour because their inhibitions are compromised during these periods (Gora, 1982: 5). In my opinion Pollak’s contention is flawed because it contradicts the low global female crime statistics as compared to the male crime statistics, both now and in the past. If Pollak’s argument were valid, there would have been high female crime statistics historically and also nowadays. Pollak was, however, quick to point out the reason for the low offending rate of females as compared to that of males in his next line of argument. Pollak claimed that women did not feature in the crime statistics because they chose to be engaged in “traditional” professions, such as, maids, nurses, teachers and homemakers, and that these professions rendered their crimes relatively undetectable. Pollak believed that nurturing jobs provided good cover for the concealment of female criminal acts and that this was the reason for the preponderance of females in such professions (Klein, 1976: 73–75; Gora, 1982: 6). I believe that it was naive of Pollak to state that these occupations were preferred by females because, based on evidence from the patriarchal nature of societies in different time periods, it can rather be deduced that women took up such jobs because those were the roles that the patriarchal societies groomed them and which they were expected to take up. In other words, females’ socialisation prepared them to take up such domesticated and nurturing roles in society.
Coupled with the type of professions in which females engaged, Pollak also maintained that females were experts in deceit and concealment. According to Pollak, these traits were rooted in female biology and were honed through their concealment of menstruation and their faking of orgasms (Klein, 1976: 74). However, the awareness of opportunities which had, hitherto, not been known or available to women, brought about a change in the traditional roles of females (Simon, 1975; Adler, 1975). In my opinion, if Pollak’s contention that females’ masked crimes were to be true, then females would have chosen to remain confined to their traditional roles and not take up more modern roles as this will enable them to continue to “mask” their crimes. In addition, the number of crimes committed by females has been increasing. More modern views point to the increased freedom females now enjoy in the traditionally male roles and occupations as a factor which contributes to the crimes that they commit. Some of the writers who share this opinion are Freda Adler and Rita Simon. Adler and Simon were feminist theorists who analysed female offending in their books, Sisters in crime: The rise of the new female criminal (published in 1975) and Women and crime (also published in 1975). These feminist researchers noted that the large numbers of females entering the labour force since the early 1970s had been responsible for the increasing numbers of females who were committing crime (Dastille, 2011: 290).
Gisela Konopka based her study on the connection between psychological and physiological factors and female crime. However, as opposed to Pollak (1950), who regarded sexual motivation as the primary cause of female crime, Konopka attributed the cause of female crime to emotional factors. Konopka further claimed that girls have greater emotional needs than boys and that the absence of fulfilling these emotional needs influences the criminal behaviour of girls (Gora, 1982: 7–8).
Cowie, Cowie and Slater (cited in Gora, 1982: 6–7) point out the difference in the rate and type of delinquent acts that are perpetrated by boys and girls reflects their biological make-up, particularly their hormonal balance and genetic composition. These authors contend that female offenders tend to flout social controls and that they exhibit masculine characteristics, whereas non-criminal females display feminine characteristics. The masculine and feminine characteristics identified by Cowie et al include energy, aggressiveness, enterprise, rebelliousness, weakness, dependent nature and narcissism. They believe that the more “masculine” a female, the greater her propensity to commit crime.
Clyde Vedder and David Somerville (in Gora, 1982: 7) assert that the cause of female crime is embedded in the malfunctioning of the family unit and the consequences of this malfunctioning for the individual. They suggest therapy to address this malfunction within the family.
Although the contributions of the scholars cited above to explanations of female crime are dated and even sexist (with the possible exception of Adler and Simon), they do represent the thinking on female criminality at the time. Another perspective, the sex role theory of delinquent behaviour and its link to female criminality, will be discussed next.
Sex role theories
Unlike the proponents of the “traditional” school of thought, the sex role theorists contend that both the sex role and the socialisation of females play significant roles in their criminal behaviour. Walter Reckless regarded role theory as occupying a central position in the analysis of crime statistics in the late 1950s. He pointed out that the behaviour of males and females, including criminal behaviour, are determined by the social roles of the two sexes. However, Reckless maintained these social roles are a product of the biology, psychology and social position of males and females (in Gora, 1982: 9).
Ivan Nye asserted that delinquency is both natural and normal and, thus, that behaviour that conforms to societal norms is the opposite of delinquent acts and, in fact, unnatural. He maintained that non-delinquent behaviour is a product of two factors, namely, internal controls and direct controls. Internal controls are acquired by individuals through early childhood socialisation, while direct controls are imposed on individuals by the society in which they live. Nye contended that girls experience more direct controls, particularly from their families, as compared to boys and, hence, girls are often less delinquent than boys. According to Nye, a reduction in the direct controls that are imposed on girls will precipitate criminal behaviour (in Gora, 1982: 9).
Dale Hoffman-Bustamante adopts a sociological explanation in analysing female criminality by proposing that female crime is embedded in five factors, namely, differential role expectations for both men and women, sex differences in both socialisation patterns and the application of social control, structurally determined differences in the opportunities available to commit particular offences, differential access to or pressures toward criminally oriented subcultures and careers, and the sex differences which are built into the crime categories themselves. Hoffman-Bustamante attributes the differences in the arrests between females and males to the differences in their social control and socialisation. Hoffman-Bustamante also contends that sex roles equip individuals with skills which they may then use to perpetrate crimes. These sex roles also dictate the types and modus operandi of the criminal acts that are committed by males and females (in Gora, 1982: 11).
The works of Rita Simon and Freda Adler also belong to this school of thought. They argue that the change in female criminal behaviour has been brought on by both the increased availability of opportunities to commit crime and by the sex role of females (see section 2.4.2 for more details on Simon and Adler’s views of female crime).
Gora’s categorisation of the viewpoints of different scholars into the traditional and sex role schools of thought has shed light on the numerous ways in which scholars have viewed the etiology of female crime. In essence, the traditional school of thought argued that the causes of female crime may be explained using physiological, psychological, social and emotional factors, while the sex role school of thought contends that an examination of the gender roles of females is imperative in the understanding of the causes of female criminality.
The following section examines the experiences of females before, during and after incarceration. The effects of these experiences on not only the female prisoners and female ex-prisoners but also on their families, particularly their children are discussed.
FEMALES’ EXPERIENCES BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER INCARCERATION
Pandey and Singh (2006: 97) regard the problems that arise from interpersonal relations within families as being responsible for the majority of the crimes that are committed by women. In addition, impoverished family background, inadequate education, abusive parents, broken homes, perceived imminent loss of valued interpersonal ties (especially a romantic relationship) and unemployment are identified as some of the characteristics of female offenders (Steffensmeier & Allan, 1995: 87–88). Pandey and Singh (2006) and also parts of Steffensmeier and Allan’s (1995) contentions are in support of one of the theories, GST, upon which this study is anchored. GST contends that the inability of females either to establish or maintain interpersonal ties with other individuals is one of the factors that may significantly influence the criminal behaviour of females.
The poor living conditions of women prisoners and their children was noted by Pandey and Singh (2006: 97) when they observed that the claim by jail authorities in India in their jail manuals that medical and health facilities, food, clothing, and other necessities are provided to women prisoners and their children was, in fact, incorrect as these jails lack the basic necessities for survival and are also overcrowded. Pandey and Singh (2006: 97) also observed that “the facilities for education, recreation, health, nutrition, rehabilitation” were poor in these jails. Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey (2008: 42, 43) supported female prisoners’ rights to private and family lives, particularly those who are mothers and, more especially if this category of prisoners is incarcerated in institutions that are relatively close to home when they stated that “the deleterious effects on family life of imprisoning mothers continues well after they have served their sentences and are released back into the community”. Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey (2008: 42, 43) also noted that female prisoners are more likely to be the primary care givers of their children than their male partners and that there is an increased likelihood of these children becoming offenders as a result of their mothers’ imprisonment and absence during incarceration.
Some of the unpleasant prison conditions that women prisoners and their children are exposed to in Indian prisons, as noted by Pandey and Singh (2006), is evident in South African female prisons. Hesselink and Dastille (2010: 65) observe that “[i]nfants and toddlers who are ‘incarcerated’ with their inmate-mothers within South African female correctional facilities are exposed to a harsh, criminal, rigid and static (unchangeable) custodial environment on a daily basis”. They noted that incarceration has significantly negative effects on the babies and toddlers who are imprisoned with their mothers. These negative effects include “lack of privacy and freedom of movement, limited choices, social interaction and familial and age appropriate contacts [which]… contribute to the baby and toddler’s perception of reality” (Hesselink & Dastille, 2010: 65). These effects, Hesselink and Dastille (2010: 65) argue, create problems for the child in terms of an inability to adapt to the environment outside of prison.
The pains of imprisonment for female prisoners include the loss of privacy, the strain experienced in adapting to communal life in prison and the lack of control over their bodies as a result of strip searches as well as the fear of losing interpersonal relationships with family and friends after incarceration. It was noted that the most difficult aspect of imprisonment for many women is the separation from their children as a large number of female prisoners are mothers. This separation of mother and child often intensifies the pain of imprisonment for women by creating an intense feeling of isolation which is exacerbated by the frustration and guilt that these females experience as a result of the separation from their children and their inability to continue to care for their children. A significant number of incarcerated women were the sole breadwinners in their families before imprisonment. These feelings of despair are also aggravated by the non-cordial relationship that often exists between the female prisoners and the wardens (Pogrebin & Dodge, 2006: 28–30).
The effects of imprisonment are often felt by female prisoners long after their release from prison. Carlen (1990: 17) observes that “a woman’s experience of imprisonment crucially affects her prospects on release … too often that experience is damaging and debilitating”. A myriad of problems arise from the incarceration of females, particularly within the families. Family instability often precedes the incarceration of some females and imprisonment may, in turn, exacerbate this instability. The absence of a mother because of imprisonment may have devastating effects on members of her family, especially her children who may experience anger and resentment as a result of their mother’s incarceration. Aggression, delinquency, substance abuse, poor school grades, and mental health problems are some of the negative behavioural changes that the children of incarcerated women exhibit as a result of their pain of separation from their mothers. It is also believed that there is an increased likelihood that these children will themselves be incarcerated and abuse and neglect their own children. The imprisonment of mothers usually results in their children being cared for by extended family members although this often means a lack of access to the mental health and social services which would have been provided for these children if they were looked after in government controlled foster homes. However, the fear of losing custody of their children often means that female prisoners are not prepared to relinquish the care of their children to the state prior to their incarceration (Sarri, 2009: 301–303). On their release from prison, female prisoners are often eager to be reunited with their children and other family members but are unaware of the emotional roller coaster (anger and anxiety) and turmoil which their children experience when their mothers return to them. These negative feelings on the part of the children are fuelled by the sense of desertion that they felt when their mothers were incarcerated and/or the confusion as regards how to react to their mothers’ return home because they may have transferred their affections for their mothers to the person who took care of them during their mothers’ absence. The fact that most female “offenders are released with nothing except the clothing they are wearing and a bus ticket” compounds the experiences of female prisoners after imprisonment (Sarri, 2009: 309).
The literature on the specific experiences of females in relation to imprisonment is examined in the following sections. These experiences include same-sex sexual relationships. Female prisoners and abuse, female offending and incarceration in South Africa as well as the intersections of gender, race, class and crime are also discussed.
Same-sex sexual relationships between females in prisons
Same-sex sexual relationships behind bars may either be consensual or coerced. More literature exists on consensual sexual relationships between female prisoners that those which are coercive in nature. Consensual sexual relationships are practised by female prisoners as a way of coping both with life inside prison and also the loss of relationships, both sexual and non-sexual, upon imprisonment. In the United States of America, Jones (1993) identified certain coping adaptations on the part of female prisoners in order to adjust to the loss of familial ties, namely, the formation of quasi families, couples, and remaining alone. Jones (1993) noted that couple relationships may become sexual while the other adaptations serve the purpose of fulfilling the emotional needs of the female prisoners. Similarly, Propper (1978) noted that non-sexual relationships between female prisoners provided them with security, companionship, and affection. In addition, in a study also conducted in the United States of America, Koscheski and Hensley (2001) found that female prisoners indicated several sexual orientations, including lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual, prior to imprisonment. However, the percentage of female prisoners who claimed to be “homosexuals” during incarceration increased compared to the percentage of female prisoners who claimed that they had been heterosexual before imprisonment. It may, thus, be deduced from the study that more females practised same-sex sexual relationships in prison compared to before imprisonment.
Homosexuality has been a controversial topic within both prison environments and broader society. Homosexuality has been described as “natural, unnatural, criminal, and as a type of mental illness” (Pardue et al, 2011: 286). Pardue et al (2011: 286) explain that the term “homosexuality” was coined in 1869 at a time when homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder in the USA. It remained classified as such until 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the classification of mental disorders. For the purposes of this study, both homosexuality and lesbianism will be referred to as same-sex sexual acts.
The issue of same-sex sexual relationships in female prisons has been of scholarly interest to researchers with the majority of studies on the subject matter being conducted in the prisons of the United States of America (Einat & Chen, 2012: 25). The majority of previous studies on prison sex focused on male prisoners with most of these studies tending to focus on male prison rape rather than on consensual sexual relations between male prisoners. Tewksbury and West (2000: 372) point out that the perception of prison rape as a social and institutional problem is the reason why prison rape has been accorded more attention than consensual sexual relationships in prisons over the years. There is a paucity of research into same-sex sexual relationships in South African female prisons. In line with the trends in prison sex research in the USA, the focus in South Africa has also been on the sexual relationships that exist between male prisoners and in male prisons.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of abbreviations and acronyms
Table of contents
CHAPTER ONE: PERSPECTIVES ON GENDER AND CRIMINALITY
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.3 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.4 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
1.5 RATIONALE FOR THE STUDY
1.7 THEORETICAL OUTLINE OF THE STUDY
1.8 OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTERS
CHAPTER TWO: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE ANALYSIS OF GENDER AND CRIME
2.3 GENERAL STRAIN THEORY
2.5 GOFFMAN’S “TOTAL INSTITUTIONS”
2.6 A COMPARISON OF GST, FEMINISM, THE FEMINIST PATHWAYS APPROACH AND GOFFMAN’S “TOTAL INSTITUTIONS”
2.7 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE ANALYSIS OF WOMEN’S LIVES BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER INCARCERATION
CHAPTER THREE: LITERATURE REVIEW
3.2 THE HISTORY OF FEMALE CRIMINALITY
3.3 FEMALES’ EXPERIENCES BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER INCARCERATION
CHAPTER FOUR: METHODOLOGY
4.2 QUALITATIVE RESEARCH DESIGN
4.3 THE RESEARCH PROCESS
4.4 DATA ANALYSIS
4.5 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
4.6 OVERVIEW OF THE RESEARCH SITE
4.7 BIOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FEMALE EX-PRISONERS
4.8 REFLECTIONS ON THE FIELD PROCESS
CHAPTER FIVE: WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES BEFORE INCARCERATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
5.2. WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES BEFORE INCARCERATION
CHAPTER SIX: PRISON CONDITIONS IN SOUTH AFRICAN FEMALE PRISONS
6.2 MEDICAL CARE
6.4 HYGIENE AND SANITATION
6.5 CONTACT WITH PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF PRISON
6.6 EDUCATION AND READING MATERIAL
6.7 PRISON WORK AND SKILLS ACQUISITION
6.8 BEDDING, CLOTHING AND PHYSICAL APPEARANCE
6.9 EXERCISE AND RECREATION
CHAPTER SEVEN: SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS IN SOUTH AFRICAN FEMALE PRISONS
7.2 CONSENSUAL SAME-SEX SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS AMONG FEMALES IN SOUTH AFRICAN PRISONS
7.3 COERCIVE SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS IN SOUTH AFRICAN FEMALE PRISONS
CHAPTER EIGHT: WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES AFTER INCARCERATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
8.3 STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION
8.4 FAMILY BREAKDOWN AND THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECT OF IMPRISONMENT ON FEMALE EX-PRISONERS
CHAPTER NINE: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
9.3 THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS
9.4 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
9.6 AVENUES FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
9.7 CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE STUDY
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT