Property of Corrections: The Experience of Incarceration for Female Inmates in a New Zealand Prison
This thesis examines what it means to be an inmate as experienced by female inmates serving sentences at Christchurch Women’s Prison. Using an auto-ethnographic methodology, combined with a mixed-methods approach, 82 female inmates completed a questionnaire and 10 were interviewed via semi-structured conversations. The data from the questionnaire are presented and analysed within the context of research from overseas studies. The conversations are further analysed and complemented by my own insider knowledge of prison life. This study was undertaken when I was a serving inmate and I made the decision to situate myself in this body of research. Excerpts from my prison journal entries, consisting of shared personal reflections from my years of imprisonment, are interspersed throughout the thesis. Three primary motivations drove this research. The first was to discover and interrogate what it means to be a prisoner from the prisoner’s perspective. The second was to explore how the prison experience relates to the possibility of future successful reintegration and, finally, I wanted to give women inmates a platform to share their stories in the hope that it would empower them. It achieves all three. The stories that the women shared, and their understandings of lived prison life, illustrate the ineffectiveness of incarceration and its inability to serve as a foundation for successful future reintegration. The findings provide a preliminary platform for further studies in this area and contribute to the extant academic understanding of an often misunderstood population.