A study of family units formed in female correctional facilities in the state of Texas




Huggins, Denise

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This study examined how pseudofamily groups function within the female prison population and how membership could affect the inmate's image within the prison system. The main emphasis was on the family-like structure of these groups and if membership created either positive or negative consequences for the female inmate. The study also evaluated the exact nature and frequency of sexual contact between female inmates and if this contact was due to the sexual orientation of the participants. Finally, the study examined if participation in pseudofamily groups was looked upon unfavorably by prison officials and if so, what were the possible consequences the inmates could face for having chosen to be members. This was accomplished through both a quantitative and qualitative approach conducted within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. There were 214 females surveyed as well as 101 staff members; in addition, thirty inmates and ten staff members agreed to be interviewed.

The major findings from this study were that pseudofamily groups were not as prevalent as studies have indicated and that members of these groups did experience both negative and positive outcomes as a result of their membership. The negative repercussion included being subject to more disciplinary cases, being treated differently by non-member inmates and staff members, and being subjected to non-members reporting any type of behavior or activity viewed as illegal within the institution. The positive outcomes included having close friends who were supportive, caring, and trustworthy.

Sexual contact within the pseudofamily groups was not found to be common; however, the members were more likely to be involved in a sexual relationship with inmates who were not members of their family group. Furthermore, these sexual relationships were more prevalent than the family groupings. Involvement in a sexual relationship was not based on prior sexual orientation or experiences.

Theoretically, importation theory and Goffman's perspective on total institutions were both supported by the findings. However, the importation of past experiences, attitudes, and behavior involved more than just traditional gender role expectations.



Social sciences, Correctional facilities, Family, Prisons, Texas, Women inmates