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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Literature Review on Women's Anger and Other Emotions

Anger Among Incarcerated Women

Grossmann (1992), in a study of suicide among first nation women in custody, notes that both the role of the carceral environment and personal characteristics women bring with them when they enter an institution are factors to consider in understanding and possibly reducing suicide among these inmates. A similar analysis may be made regarding anger and its expression among incarcerated women. Sommers (in press) presents women's personal accounts of their lawbreaking behaviour in which women identify four explanations: "need; disconnection and the influence of others; visible anger; and fear" (p. 19). Faily and Roundtree, in a 1979 study of rule violations in a female prison population, confirmed that "[t]he characteristics, experiences, and behaviors of women criminals before incarceration does affect their behavior in prison to a great extent" (p. 86). The prevalence of past physical and sexual victimization (Grossmann, 1992; Elizabeth Fry Society, 1994; Katz & Hall, 1994; Singer et al., 1995), lack of social support, enforced separation from their children (Flowers, 1987; Elizabeth Fry Society, 1994; Katz & Hall, 1994), and high proportion of drug and alcohol use (Singer et al., 1995) are some of the factors signifying the distress present in women when they enter custody. These "psychological, economic, social, legal and historical" (Gwynn, 1993, p. 103), factors are compounded by the conditions women encounter in the "already-existent conflict-ridden" (Rucker, 1991), competitive environment of the prison setting that induces abuse of power and control (Katz & Hall, 1994), coercion, and mistrust. Suspicion and mistrust of security staff and inconsistent rule enforcement were noted as significant factors contributing to anger levels among incarcerated women (Rucker, 1991).