Doing Gendered Time: The Harms of Women's Imprisonment

Linda Moore, Phil Scraton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter focuses on women’s imprisonment in the context of gendered punishment inflicted by the State. It considers the gender-specific consequences of incarceration for women prisoners and the potential of gender-responsive alternatives to custodial sentences. Following a brief historical overview, it traces the rise and consolidation of women’s incarceration in UK jurisdictions, noting the significance of devolution on the prison systems of Scotland and Northern Ireland. In examining the impact of neo-liberal policies and globalisation on women’s imprisonment, it draws comparisons with other advanced democratic states. Analysing the rationale underpinning the disproportionate rise in women’s incarceration, particularly in the UK and the USA the chapter identifies the persistent tensions between retributivism/ incapacitation and reformism/rehabilitation. Drawing on international research demonstrating the complex needs and vulnerabilities of women and girl prisoners, the chapter reveals the gendered harm experienced within penal regimes and the recent development - and limitations - of official gender-specific policies and practices. The emergence of distinct but related political discourses on ‘risk’ and ‘responsibilisation’ as applied to women in conflict with the law, and their consequent criminalisation, is critiqued in the contexts of structural disadvantage, gender discrimination and institutionalised racism. Within these oppressive dynamics often severe deprivations are inflicted on women’s acts of resistance both inside prison and in their communities post-release, further confining the potential of individual and collective agency. Finally, the chapter proposes fundamental change through establishing women-centred alternatives to prison, alongside policies committed to decarceration, while working towards securing the abolition of women’s imprisonment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Prisons
EditorsYvonne Jewkes, Ben Crewe, Jamie Bennett
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781315797779
ISBN (Print)9780415745659, 9780415745666
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2016


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