A Narrative Inquiry into the Experiences of Young Women with Learning Difficulties involved in the Criminal Justice System

  • Author / Creator
    Park, Elly
  • Young women with learning difficulties are over-represented in the criminal justice system. They are more likely to be arrested, charged, sentenced, incarcerated, and re-incarcerated. A literature review revealed an emerging body of research within the disciplines of disability studies and criminology. Looking more specifically at research focusing on first-hand accounts of experiences from people with learning disabilities in the CJS, I found only a small number of studies (Hyun, Hahn, & McConnell, 2014), with none focusing solely on women’s experiences (Chapter 3). The theoretical underpinnings were drawn from feminist disability studies and feminist criminology. Sense of identity, described in narrative inquiry as ‘stories to live by’ (Clandinin, 2013) was understood based on labeling theory and sense of belonging. The social model of disability formed the definition of learning difficulties for this narrative inquiry. Bruner’s notion of narrative knowledge and Dewey’s theory of experience formed the basis of this narrative inquiry in terms of knowing and understanding through experiences. Narrative inquiry is an established research methodology where researchers inquire into experiences in relational ways (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Clandinin, Murphy, Huber, & Orr, 2009). This methodology is grounded in relationships and an ongoing dialogue that fosters trust, comfort and openness. I met with four young women for eight to eighteen months and we talked about their experiences, including their experiences in the criminal justice system. We also lived shared stories by going places together including appointments, looking for housing and grocery shopping. This dissertation is organized with the narrative accounts of participants first followed by a published review of qualitative research and three distinct manuscripts prepared for submission iii as the body chapters. In chapter 4, the resonances across the four participants’ narrative accounts are discussed as narrative threads. These threads are uncertainty and instability in their circumstances, enduring discrimination and stigma, and mothering as well as being mothered. In chapter 5, the notion of counterstories (Lindemann- Nelson, 1995) is discussed as a basis for recognizing the stories that participants shared as stories of resistance and resilience. Seeing the stories that the women were telling and living as counterstories was a way of shifting my perceptions which reflected the dominant stories I knew. Chapter 6 discusses the ethical tensions that emerged during the narrative inquiry process. Considering ethical tensions as educative spaces, I grappled with questions about who I was in the participants’ lives and how I could maintain my ethical responsibility to them when writing this dissertation. I hope to compel the reader to think about the stories shared as a way of knowing, as well as to see the significance in stories of experience for shaping who we are and how we perceive the world around us. I have elaborated on different ways of attending to and understanding stories -- looking at the narrative threads, recognizing counterstories, and grappling with ethical tensions -- in order to show the dynamic and interactive nature of stories when they are seen as opportunities for greater awareness and new possibilities.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Caine, Vera (Nursing)
    • McConnell, David (Occupational Therapy)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Minaker, Joanne (Sociology)