Women make up approximately 11% of the total number of incarcerated adults in provincial jails across Canada. While overall crime rates are declining, incarceration rates, particularly at the provincial level, and for women, are growing. Examination of the literature on the experiences of incarcerated women shows complex histories that include physical and sexual violence, poverty, mental health concerns or disabilities and often addictions. The purpose of this study is to understand the complexity of women’s experience and how it is related to the ways in which policies and practices to manage crime emerge within dominant political ideologies. Using institutional ethnography, in-depth interviews and analysis of authorizing and interfacing texts inside the women’s unit of a provincial prison in Alberta, Canada, I examine power and decision making. The following questions guided this study: how specifically do dominant ideologies manifest within the prison experience? Does sustaining a prison system meant to punish and rehabilitate offenders at the same time reduce future crime? How do dominant ideologies construct women offenders? And how do prison processes and decisions rooted in these ideologies impact the women offenders’ experiences in prison?
My interdisciplinary approach, using a gendered-disability lens seeks to understand how the ‘woman in jail’ is constructed within the dominant economic philosophy of neoliberalism, as well, how these constructions lead to a particular representation and corresponding regulation of her. The critical analysis reveals that current practices of incarcerating women with histories of trauma has deleterious effects. An alternative approach is theorized