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In Her Own Words: Women Offenders' Views on Crime and Victimization

An Anthology

Edited by Leanne Fiftal Alarid and Paul Cromwell

Publication Date - 29 July 2005

ISBN: 9780195330687

246 pages
7 x 10 inches

"What makes this anthology so unique and interesting is its exclusive use of research using feminist methodology, including in-depth and life-history interviews."--Heather Melton, University of Utah


In Her Own Words: Women Offenders' Views on Crime and Victimization offers first-hand accounts of women's experience with crime and victimization and provides a rare opportunity for students to view the world from the perspective of the female offender. The text is designed to offer a surrogate experience--an inside view on how female law-breaking behavior overlaps with victimization in some cases, and how law breaking is a rational choice in others.

The authors of each article befriend, observe, and interview women who are involved in lawbreaking behaviors and may also themselves be victimized. Topics include sex work, drugs, violent crime, property crime, desistance from crime, and women as victims of crime. Students will encounter women who have engaged in prostitution, murder, robbery, drug dealing and gang activities--all of whom discuss their motives, perceptions, decision-making strategies, and rationalizations for crime.

The data from these ethnographic studies provide abundant description and detail about the personal experiences and perspectives of offenders so that readers understand the commonalities shared by both criminalized and victimized women. In every case, however, the story is told from the perspective, and in the words of, the offender.

In Her Own Words takes a "pathways to crime" approach and assumes that present cultural values define what is considered illegal, immoral, or in need of government intervention. The book places the interviews in a theoretical and social scientific context so that the reader can better understand how much of female offending behavior is linked to prior victimization and how much is rational choice.

The law tends to criminalize individuals who face victimization from domestic abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, or are marginalized in some way through poverty or discrimination. As such, a criminalized woman may share many commonalities of women who are victimized, such as a feeling of powerlessness or learned helplessness, and involvement in oppressive relationships.


"What makes this anthology so unique and interesting is its exclusive use of research using feminist methodology, including in-depth and life-history interviews. In addition, the authors select essays that highlight the diversity of experiences of female offenders, particularly related to race and class."--Heather Melton, University of Utah

Table of Contents

    Section I: Women's Pathways to Crime: Linking Victimization and Criminalization
    1. From Victims to Survivors to Offenders: Women's Routes of Entry and Immersion Into Street Crime, Mary E. Gilfus
    2. Black Women's Pathways to Involvement in Illicit Drug Distribution and Sales, Lisa Maher, Eloise Dunlap, and Bruce D. Johnson
    3. Coping, Resisting, and Surviving: Connecting Women's Law Violations to Their History of Abuse, Elizabeth Comack
    4. Naming Oneself Criminal: Gender Differences in Offenders' Identity Negotiation, Brenda Geiger and Michael Fischer
    Section II: The Nexus Between Criminal Behavior and Family
    5. 'I'm Calling My Mom': The Meaning of Family and Kinship Among Latina Homegirls, Geoffrey P. Hunt, Kathleen MacKenzie, and Karen A. Joe-Laidler
    6. The Lives and Times of Asian-Pacific American Women Methamphetamine Users, Karen A. Joe-Laidler
    7. The Impact of Mothering on Criminal Offending, Kathleen J. Ferraro and Angela M. Moe
    8. Women Who Have Killed Their Children, Susan M. Crimmins, Sandra C. Langley, Henry H. Brownstein, and Barry J. Spunt
    Section III: Crime Partnerships, Networks, and Gangs
    9. Do Women Play a Primary or a Secondary Role in Felony Offenses? A Comparison by Race/Ethnicity, Leanne Fiftal Alarid, James W. Marquart, Velmer S. Burton Jr., Francis T. Cullen, and Steven J. Cuvelier
    10. A Woman's Place Is in the Home: Females and Residential Burglary, Scott H. Decker, Richard Wright, Allison Redfern, and Dietrich Smith
    11. Comparing Female Gangs of Various Ethnicities: Young Women of African-American, El Salvadoran, and Mexican Descent, David C. Brotherton
    12. Young Women and Gang Violence: Gender, Street Offending, and Violent Victimization in Gangs, Scott H. Decker and Jody Miller
    Section IV: Economic Marginality and Survival Crimes
    13. One Woman's Voice: My Mother Was a Whore, Nikki Levine
    14. Violent Victimization of Street Sex Workers, Steven P. Kurtz, Hilary L. Surratt, James A. Inciardi, and Marion C. Kiley
    15. The Entanglement of Agency, Violence, and Law in the Lives of Women in Prostitution, Lisa E. Sanchez
    16. Homelessness and Temporary Living Arrangements in the Inner-City Crack Culture, Lisa Maher, Eloise Dunlap, Bruce D. Johnson, and Ansley Hamid
    Section V: Women's Crime as Rational Choice
    17. One Woman's Voice: Stealing in College, Dorothy Allison
    18. Women, Work, and Crime, Deborah R. Baskin and Ira Sommers
    19. Property Crime as It Relates to Women Drug Dealers, Barbara Denton and Pat O'Malley
    20. Up It Up: Gender and the Accomplishment of Street Robbery, Jody Miller
    21. Women Who Kill in Drug Market Situations, Henry H. Brownstein, Barry J. Spunt, Susan M. Crimmins, and Sandra C. Langley
    22. Pathways Out of Crime: Crime Desistance by Female Street Offenders, Ira Sommers, Deborah R. Baskin, and Jeffrey Fagan

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