Views and perceptions of what causes crime: the case of black women offenders
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Although there have been some research studies focused on offenders' perceptions of crime, the majority have involved male inmates and used quantitative methods. Few studies have focused on women's perceptions of the origins of crime, while no study has focused on Black women offender's perceptions of what causes crime. This research project seeks to fill part of this gap in the literature. This research expands on two earlier studies. First, Mathis and Rayman (1972) studied male prison inmates' views and perceptions on what causes crime and found that inmates identify external, environmental factors as one of the primary causes of crime. Second, Gillespie and Galliher (1972) highlight the importance of male inmates' definition of the impact of prison on their prospects for the future. The current dissertation explores Black female inmates' perceptions of what causes crime as well as their orientation toward the future. Thirty (30) Black female offenders in a large West Coast prison were interviewed using a semi-structured, in-depth interview questionnaire. The women were between the ages of 19 and 75, and primarily of lower education and socio-economic status. Findings indicate that Black female inmates' primarily cite two types of causal attributions: external and internal/external. Overwhelmingly, Black female inmates cite more external factors as causes of crime (e.g., abuse or other people). Furthermore, drug use was also frequently cited by informants. For many informants, drug use originated in external causes but became a personal or internal cause of subsequent behaviors. These findings challenge the view that prisoners primarily identify external factors in regard to causes of crime.
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