Silenced voices: A narrative study of women's experiences of prison life: Implications for pedagogy and quality of life experience
This narrative study explores women's experiences of incarceration. It gives voice to their silence. Amazingly, the author discovered that some women, despite incarceration, were able to find quality of life within the confines of a federal prison camp. To discover some of the ways in which they created quality of life, she held multiple conversations with them, both inside and outside of a federal prison camp classroom.
The study illustrates the role of "engagement" in the perception of quality of life, community, and personal identity, as well as its role in effective learning. Factors that facilitate positive life experience and community building are identified. The women's narratives give a clear picture of the purpose and process of community building in learning as well as identifying characteristics which contribute to quality of life.
In addition to giving voice to the participants, the author describes teaching strategies that produced self-respect and positive learning. The narratives portray identity formation, relationship, respect, transformation, community and "flow" as described by Csikszentmihalyi.
Through analysis of these interactive conversations, seven common themes emerge among those women who identified their lives as "satisfying". These themes are: belief in something beyond themselves; having a mentor/guide; productive activity/mastery; structured physical activity; feeling connected and respected; curiosity; and giving without expectation. Examples of each theme are highlighted and discussed.
These seven themes of life satisfaction were also evident in the factors that facilitated learning.
Themes in the larger societal context, e.g., the preponderance of a history of abuse among incarcerated women, the unjustness of separating mothers and children, the ineffective and destructive outcomes of the "race to incarcerate" and the out-of-control costs of the penal system are also identified through these narratives.
0516: Continuing education
0326: Cultural anthropology
0453: Womens studies