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Beyond Litchfield: An Orange Epilogue Examining The Role of Friendship in Women’s Narratives of Community Re-Entry Open Access


Other title
community re-entry
narrative analysis
social bonds
community reintegration
qualitative interviews
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Dick, Kaitlyn R
Supervisor and department
Sandra Bucerius (Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Jennifer Passey (Psychology)
Amy Kaler (Sociology)
Department of Sociology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Arts
Degree level
Canada’s fastest growing incarcerated population is female offenders. While incarcerated, these women experience damage to their existing social networks and lose significant personal relationships, making the transition from carceral to community settings difficult. In the absence of effective social support at release, many offenders face re-incarceration, as they are unable to transition into lives as law-abiding citizens. Community reintegration is not simply the absence of recidivism, but also the transition to a law-abiding conventional lifestyle, including the maintenance of existing and acquisition of new social ties that discourage future criminality. Given the multifaceted nature of community reintegration and the competing theoretical understandings of crime and recidivism, there is a need for additional research and theorizing regarding how former inmates transition and adjust to life outside of prison. Motivated by this gap in the literature, this thesis research seeks to qualitatively assess the role of peer-to-peer relationships in the lived experience of community re-integration following incarceration for women in Edmonton, Alberta by analyzing 16 interviews conducted with 8 formerly incarcerated women. The definition of friendship was operationalized during data coding to include components of shared life experience, physical and emotional availability during times of need, opportunities for ‘venting’, and the provision of supportive words or words of encouragement. Friendships are primarily maintained through talking, shared hobbies and/or leisure activities, and shared criminal activity. The women interviewed expressed low expectations of their friendships, which was largely attributable to their feelings of low self worth and of being undeserving of friendship. Friendships were found to exert a positive influence on community reintegration through access to material and emotional resources, as well as a negative influence because they did not meet all of the former offenders’ needs and in some cases encouraged continued criminality. The women interviewed expressed mixed feelings towards their futures. Some felt negatively about their chances of successfully reintegrating because of reported loneliness, feelings of hopelessness, and stigmatization. Others felt more positively because of inspirational role models, renewed commitment to faith or culture, or simply aging out of crime.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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