Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Chwalisz, Kathleen


AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF VALERIE V. HENDERSON, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Psychology, presented on December 6, 2012, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: A QUALITATIVE INVESTIGATION OF BLACK FEMALE OFFENDERS' RECIDIVISM AND THEIR CONTEXTUAL NEEDS MAJOR PROFESSOR: DR. KATHLEEN CHWALISZ The United States Department of Justice (2009) estimated that one out of every 15 persons within the U.S. population will be confined to jail or prison within their lifetime. The lifetime prevalence of incarceration, serving a jail or prison sentence, differs among people of various ethnicities and genders. Despite comprising only 14% of the United States population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009), African Americans are overrepresented in correctional facilities and make up 47% of all inmates in the penal system. African American women are incarcerated more frequently and for greater lengths when compared to other racial or ethnic groups of women and most men regardless of their ethnicities with the exception of African American men (U.S. Department of Justice, 2008). African American women's frequent incarceration may be a response of their social systems' values around ethnicity and gender. Qualitative methodology was used to interview eight African American mother-offenders. Participants identified three themes that provided insight into how they lived and responded to contextual restraints based on ethgender discrimination. The three themes that emerged were: (a) False Consciousness: The Mis-Education on White Patriarchy, (b) Parenting: When Children are Harmed, and (c) Black Womanness: Resilient through Marginalization. Both Critical Race Feminism and Critical ethnography were used to interpret the results. Black mother-offenders' high rates of chronic poverty and unemployment, single parenting, domestically abusive relationships, victimization, and substance use began in their ethgender marginalization. To eliminate the disparities in incarceration rates among Black mothers, the problems that disproportionately effect Black women, first, must be addressed. Exposing and creating community solutions that account for the contextual inequalities in the lives of the most marginalized Black mothers must be the goals of all practitioners, researchers, and policy makers.




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