Rehabilitating Criminal Selves: Gendered Strategies in Community Corrections
Despite sweeping changes to the criminal justice system, scholars have documented that the formation of criminal subjects remains deeply gendered. While women’s criminality is explained as emanating out of psychological disorder and a fractured self, men’s is understood as a rational choice made by a whole self. Drawing upon observational, interview and case note data collected within the probation/parole system of a Northwestern State, I both concur with and challenge this standard narrative. I present a unified concept of the gendered selves that underlie contemporary notions of men and women as criminal subjects and link the particular rehabilitative strategies officers employ to these gendered beliefs. I suggest that officers are critical of the criminal selves of both men and women, positing the male self as flawed or underdeveloped and the female as permeable and amorphous. Responsive to these beliefs, officers attempt to rehabilitate men via encouraging “non-criminal” thought processes and behaviors and modeling a conventional, officious interactional style. For women, offices attempt to solidify women’s boundaries, discourage relationship formation, model a healthy relationship and contain women’s emotions. I focus particularly upon interactions within supervision meetings, as I will argue that it is within this space that officers, facing substantial resource constraints, are able to work towards rehabilitative goals.
Country of focus: United States of America.