The Effects of Motherhood on a sample of Female Drug Offenders

Copley, Kristee
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University of Delaware
In the past, theories of desistance have focused on how relationships in offender’s lives reduce the likelihood of offending. However the demographics of today’s prisons have greatly changed since these theories were articulated, using samples of white males coming of age in the 1950s. Notably the number of women in prison has increased, as well as the percentage of minority and drug-involved offenders. This project is part of a larger study that examined official records of 1,247 offenders in the Delaware criminal justice system from 1979 through 2008. After trajectory models of desistance were calculated from official arrest data, 304 in-depth interviews were conducted from a random sample of former offenders from the original cohort originally released from prison in the early 1990s. The purpose of these interviews was to better understand the processes of how recidivism and desistance from crime occur. This thesis specifically examines the role motherhood plays in the desistance process through the narratives of interviews with females from the sample. While some literature suggests that becoming a mother creates a bond that facilitates desistence, there is also evidence that motherhood may also add further stress that may push offenders to continue doing crime and drugs.