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Female inmates and change: A grounded theory of personal change in a women's correctional substance abuse treatment unit

William J Schnackenberg, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

The criminal justice field often measures change as the differences between the “before” and “after” quantity of something. Change is seen empirically and tangibly. The addiction field measures change empirically by how many individuals seek treatment and then relapse into problem behaviors. As these systems collide in the prison setting, two kinds of questions consistently arise. How and why do chronic substance users change in prison? How is the phenomenon described? The purpose of this study was to develop a grounded theory based on the phenomenon experienced by female inmates in a prison-based residential substance abuse treatment unit. The grand tour question asked the women to define their change experiences in their prison-based residential substance abuse treatment program. ^ Based in a mid-western prison treatment unit, fifteen in-depth interviews, completed over a three-month period, were analyzed using grounded theory techniques. Secondary data were analyzed to corroborate the findings. Open coding produced 190 categories that clustered into seventeen major categories. Axial coding yielded three interactive primary categories showing that the women in treatment had meaningful experiences when three dimensions of experience were present: (1) being honest, (2) recovering self, and (3) taking action. These dimensions interacted to define the central phenomenon “being reborn as free and normal persons” in the women's preparation for re-entry into the “outside” world. The women described three additional and important interactional aspects that also have implications for practice: (1) caring and confrontive involvement by the counseling staff, (2) caring and confrontive involvement by their peers on the unit, and (3) a curriculum that complemented the three primary dimensions in their experience of change. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Theory and Methods|Education, Adult and Continuing|Sociology, Criminology and Penology

Recommended Citation

Schnackenberg, William J, "Female inmates and change: A grounded theory of personal change in a women's correctional substance abuse treatment unit" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3034390.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3034390

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