Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Richard Walsh-Bowers

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


Women are now the fastest rising prison population in the world (Balfour & Comack, 2006). As more and more women are being incarcerated, it becomes increasingly important to understand how they experience imprisonment, as well as their transition back to the community. Scholarly work on women’s incarceration and reintegration is limited. In Canada, the majority of research on reintegration, and otherwise, has focused on the federal correctional system. The goal of this study was to gain a greater understanding of the incarceration and reintegration experiences of women in the provincial correctional system. In order to achieve this goal, I conducted an inductive qualitative study, interviewing 32 women who had been incarcerated in provincial jails in Atlantic Canada.

The study showed that women’s criminalization, incarceration, and reintegration are inextricably linked by a number of factors that influence women’s lives. Although key elements necessary for “success” have been previously identified, existing frameworks fail to account for the complexity of women’s experiences. In order to address this gap, I developed a feminist ecological framework that allowed women’s experiences to be understood and addressed through a gendered lens across multiple levels. The framework highlights the importance of acknowledging that multiple individual, relational, environmental, and societal forces are at play and that these factors need to be addressed simultaneously in order to better support criminalized women.

The findings suggest that the current correctional system is not working to provide women with the support they need. A contribution of this study is that it identifies the ways in which criminalized women can be better supported both in jail and in the community through improved policies, practice, and research. The study also shows that alternatives to incarceration are needed. Theoretically, the study offers community psychologists a framework that allows them to be more attentive to gender issues by applying a sex- and gender-based analysis in their examination of human behaviour from an ecological perspective.

Convocation Year