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Taming the shrew: regulating prisoners through women-centered mental health programming

Pollack, Shoshana and Kendall, Kathy (2005) Taming the shrew: regulating prisoners through women-centered mental health programming Critical Criminology, 13, (1), pp. 71-87. (doi:10.1007/s10612-004-6168-5).

Record type: Article


The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has received international praise for its new policies with female prisoners serving federal sentences of two or more years. Regarded as progressive, even radical, other countries have looked toward Canada for inspiration in the design of their own policies [Carlen, (2002) Criminal Justice 2(2)]. CSC’s “women-centered” mental health agenda, however, while rhetorically progressive, remains consistent with disciplinary processes which prioritize self-regulation and aim to correct or normalize those considered failed citizens [Kemshall, (2002), The Howard Journal 41(1), 41–58]. Using Nicolas Rose’s concept of governance through self-regulation [Rose 1991, b Rose (1996). Inventing Ourselves: Psychology, Power and Personhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Rose (2000). British Journal of Criminology 40, 321–339] as a theoretical framework, we argue that correctional mental health practices privileges a psychological discourse which serves to regulate women prisoners as opposed to empowering or supporting them. We examine the over use of psychiatric labelling of women, such as that of Boderline Personality Disorder, and the resulting treatment regime, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, to illustrate that the CSC has constructed women prisoners as disorderly and disordered and thus in need of taming. This discussion is followed by recommendations for new directions in feminist mental health treatment for women in prison that more adequately confront the inherent tensions and contradictions of prison therapeutic services and that incorporate multi-faceted understandings of the mental health needs of women offenders. We conclude with some policy and research implications of adopting a feminist informed mental health correctional strategy.

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Published date: 15 March 2005
Additional Information: Erratum: This paper originally published with incorrect author attibution. Authors should read Shoshana* Pollack and Kathy Kendall**. A link to the Erratum can be found in the Alternative Locations field of this eprint. *Incorrectly spelt in the Erratum; **Authors reversed in the Erratum


Local EPrints ID: 37797
ISSN: 1205-8629
PURE UUID: 3a05a61b-907c-42ef-b2c4-6c7c2e835398

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Date deposited: 30 May 2006
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 15:41

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