Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Angela Moe

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Richardson

Third Advisor

Dr. Zoann Snyder

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Rebecca Hayes


Black feminist criminology, African American women, mass incarceration, collateral consequences


A wealth of research exists that considers the causes of mass incarceration, particularly how it has shaped crime narratives and the life courses of Black men and Black women that experience imprisonment. Scholars have also explored the collateral consequences of incarceration for families and communities in general, but mentioning that Black families and communities in particular are disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration. Despite the documented impact of incarceration on families, and the acknowledgement of the toll mass incarceration has on Black communities—the social cost of mass incarceration in the lives of Black women whom have not experienced incarcerated is yet to be fully explored. This is important given that Black women often serve as primary care takers within Black communities and families (Ritchie, 2002).

Utilizing Black feminist theoretical frameworks and symbolic interactionist perspectives, the current study seeks to understand how having an immediate family member who is currently or was formerly incarcerated impacts the daily life, self-concepts, and perception of the criminal legal system for Black women. Through 20 semi-structured life history interviews, three main themes emerged. First, most of the women in the study held the self-concept of the strongblackwoman. This self-concept held by (and placed upon) many Black women —defined as being motivated, hardworking breadwinners who suppress their emotional needs, while anticipating those of others—impacted the ways in which the women in this study gave and received support during the incarceration period of their loved ones. Second, most of the women held negative perceptions of the criminal legal system, often based on negative experiences with actors in the system. Finally, despite their burdened contact with the system, the women enacted agency in a multitude of ways including activism towards criminal legal system reform.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Criminology Commons