Women’s desistance from crime
: a gender-responsive, trauma-informed analysis

  • Madeline Petrillo

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The central theme of this thesis is the analysis of women’s efforts to desist from crime after prison. The research was carried out with a cohort of women in HMP Holloway between 2013-2015, the period immediately preceding the prison’s closure in June 2016. Based on three waves of in-depth interviews with the women, the research explores the factors women experience as supportive of, or obstacles to, desistance. Gendered justice frameworks and trauma-informed approaches are increasingly informing correctional practice with women. These perspectives are employed in the analysis to give particular consideration to the relevance of women’s experiences of victimisation and trauma to their efforts to terminate offending and related behaviours. Literature on desistance generally is juxtaposed with that focused specifically on women’s desistance. This highlights the neglect of gender in theorising on the processes associated with leaving crime behind. A feminist constructivist grounded theory approach to the research design, the fieldwork, and the data analysis aims to address this by providing a gendered perspective on desistance processes related to building relationships, restoring a sense of self, and the exercise of agency and appropriate responsibility. The main arguments of this thesis, based on the rich testimonies of the participants, centre on the impact of gendered experiences of adversity on these processes. The women’s insights into how best help them recover from experiences that contribute to their offending are analysed, culminating in a proposed framework for practice to support women’s desistance that integrates desistance, trauma-informed and gender-responsive approaches to practice.
Date of AwardNov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorJacki Tapley (Supervisor) & Dennis Gough (Supervisor)

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