The Social Organization Of Motherhood And Mothering For Formerly Incarcerated Black Women
Traylor, LaTosha Lynn-Marie
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This qualitative study focused on the significance of motherhood on the post-incarceration experiences of women with stigmatized social identities, as they relate to their socially prescribed gender roles as women, mothers, and partners or wives. It builds on existing research that demonstrates the disproportionate effects of mass incarceration on Black women, which, while important, has not adequately addressed the consequences of incarceration on them, in relation to their role as mother. The methodology involved a combination of semi-structured interviews and participant-observation with formerly incarcerated Black women to explore how motherhood as a social identity and mothering as a set of actualized practices becomes obscured by their involvement in illegal activities and subsequent incarceration. The findings indicate that the organization of motherhood and mothering for this group of women involved managing the tension between their lived experiences and normative ideals of the maternal role; managing the effects of a criminalized identity that overshadows the performance of tasks associated with the role of mother; and navigating an arduous reintegration process while attempting to remaining in compliance with systems of oversight that tended to exacerbate the long reach of punishment and disconnect them from the maternal role and mothering process. In sum, the findings illuminated the interactions between structures of oversight by the criminal justice system, drug treatment facilities, the child welfare system, and prisoner reentry programs with micro-level practices in the women’s daily lives, which include maintaining sobriety, securing employment and housing, and child-rearing as female offenders, Black women, and mothers, especially while engaged in the reintegration process following a period of incarceration.
African American women