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This article examines the relationships between mothering, crime, and incarceration through the narratives of thirty women incarcerated in a southwestern county jail. The responsibilities of child care, combined with the burdens of economic marginality and domestic violence, led some women to choose economic crimes or drug dealing as an alternative to hunger and homelessness. Other women, arrested for drug- or alcohol-related crimes, related their offenses to the psychological pain and despair resulting from loss of custody of their children. Many women were incarcerated for minor probation violations that often related to the conflict between work, child care, and probation requirements. For all women with children, mothering represented both the burdens of an unequal sexual division of labor and opportunities for resistance to marginalization and hopelessness.

Published Citation

Ferraro, Kathleen J., and Moe, Angela M. 2003. “Mothering, Crime and Incarceration.” The Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 32(1): 9-40.

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Criminology Commons