COUNTERING CORRECTIONAL DISCOURSE: DEVELOPMENT OF A FEMINIST SUPPORT GROUP FOR WOMEN PRISON INMATES IN GUAM
Twaddle, I. K. B., Guerrero, V. E. L. and Setpaul, R., University of Guam, Guam
The numbers of women imprisoned in the United States and many other Western countries have increased significantly in recent years. The majority of these women have an extensive history of psychosocial trauma, yet few mental health treatment programs have been developed to meet their needs. When mental health services are available for women in prison, they are usually based on programs designed for the rehabilitation of male inmates. These programs tend to promote a "blame the victim" ideology by focusing on the correction of women inmates' dysfunctional criminal behaviors (e.g., illicit drug use), while ignoring their difficult life experiences (e.g., physical and sexual abuse, poverty, powerlessness). To address these concerns, the authors developed a feminist support group for women inmates in an adult correctional facility in Guam. The group was designed to encourage participants to share their troubled pasts, give each other support and guidance, and ultimately develop new approaches for coping with the personal, social, cultural, and economic circumstances of their lives. This paper provides an overview of the group and outlines a qualitative research study designed to evaluate its effectiveness. Results suggest that a support group based on feminist principles can be highly effective in helping women inmates to resolve past traumas, but may be inadequate for addressing the socioeconomic barriers they face after their release from prison. Alternative strategies for assisting women parolees are explored.