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Out of prison, out of crime? PhD research women after detention

About 40% of female ex-prisoners are remanded, and half commit another crime. NSCR/VU Amsterdam criminologist Elanie Rodermond investigated which factors play a role in women stopping with crime.
By Dr Elanie Rodermond | 9 October 2018 | Life-course

Each year, several thousand women leave one of the three female prisons in the Netherlands. Ideally, they stop committing crimes after their release; in other words, they desist. Rodermond demonstrates in her PhD research that problems with factors such as housing and addiction are more important for successful desistance than family relationships and work.

Desistance among women further investigated

To date, most scientific research into desistance has focussed on male (ex-)prisoners. However, are the prevailing theories about the desistance directly translatable to women? Rodermond investigated more than 2500 women who were released from prison in 2007. She analysed data on criminality, work, family composition and benefits, and she also held interviews with former female prisoners.

Family relationship has no influence

At the moment of release, about two-thirds of the women have children, and a small minority is married. Nevertheless, these family relationships do not influence the chance of being remanded. Duration of marriage and number of children exert no influence either. Rodermond showed that a supportive partner and a good relationship with the children can contribute to the will to change, but that problems with housing, finances and drug abuse often hinder prolonged desistance.

Stable housing situation and meaningful job are crucial factors

According to Rodermond, the period after release is characterised by numerous problems for both recidivist women and women who desist. A clear difference is that the desisters often have a more stable housing situation and a more meaningful job than the recidivists. After their release, both groups of women desire a life without criminality, but desisters take active steps to realise that goal.

More attention for problems concerning housing, finances, addiction and trauma

Rodermond concludes that contextual factors and more internal subjective factors influence the process of desisting. Other factors, such as family life, mainly seem to be important for supporting a process of desistance that has already started. The government and those involved with ex-prisoners must continue to pay more attention to the underlying problems within this group, especially those relating to housing, finances, addiction and trauma. This will enable women to maintain their will to change after their release.

Publication details and further reading

Rodermond, E. (2018). Out of prison, out of crime? Women on the road to desistance.

Dr Elanie Rodermond


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