Motherhood on the Outside: Reintegration and Moral Meaning Making among Ex-Offender Mothers

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Motherhood on the Outside: Reintegration and Moral Meaning Making among Ex-Offender Mothers

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Title: Motherhood on the Outside: Reintegration and Moral Meaning Making among Ex-Offender Mothers
Author: Crawford, Geniece Antoinette
Citation: Crawford, Geniece Antoinette. 2013. Motherhood on the Outside: Reintegration and Moral Meaning Making among Ex-Offender Mothers. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation examines how formerly incarcerated mothers manage the moral ambiguity associated with their ex-offender identity. In studying this group I address how the event of motherhood shapes how women frame their involvement in criminal activity. Central to respondents' understanding of their ex-offender identity is the distinction they make between the social stigma of an ex-offender identity and their personal understanding of their moral self worth. ver the course of two years 69 ex-offender mothers participated in life history interviews in which they discussed how they understood their criminal identity vis-à-vis their role as mothers. Respondents’ framing of moral identity address three key themes: relationships, rationalization of criminal involvement and substantiating claims of "good" motherhood. Women provide a socio-emotional context for their criminal participation by discussing instances of relational violence during their childhoods and within intimate partner relationships. Even while drawing connections between abusive relationships during childhood and adulthood, respondents rarely blamed others for their crime. They were primarily concerned with how their experiences influenced their moral identity both as children and later as adults. Respondents explain their level of culpability by distinguishing between the crimes they intended to commit and the crimes for which they were convicted. By defining the situational context of their crime through these accounts women craft a narrative that upholds their moral self worth. In framing their role as mothers, women drew two distinct forms of strategic comparisons. First they identified women they viewed as poor mothers in order to substantiate their claims of being a “good mother”. Second, women identified mothers they viewed as morally advantaged mothers. In doing so respondents provided concrete images of the model of motherhood they hoped to one day embody. In each instance of strategic comparison women sought to craft a narrative that supported her overall view of herself "good" and moral mother. The dissertation adds to the growing literature on the reintegration process of exoffenders. The experiences of the women interviewed offer insight into how moral identity is framed and understood by those in socially disadvantaged positions.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11124851
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