A Qualitative Exploration of the Coping Strategies of Female Offenders in Nigerian Prisons

Richard A Aborisade, John A. Fayemi


Deprivation and importation theories propose that the experience and adjustment of inmates to prison life is dependent on the restrictive prison milieu and their pre-prison experiences and orientation. This implies that prison’s sub-culture mediate the relationship between demographic characteristics and adjustment to prison life. Although this core assumption underlies both theories, few researchers have attempted to test its validity, while those that does have largely focused on male offenders. Guided by an integration of the two theories, this current study explored the specific gender-related challenges that female inmates of Nigerian prisons are confronted with and the adjustment measures adopted by female prisoners. Qualitative, in-depth oral interviews were employed to gather information from 32 purposively selected female inmates and six prison officials of Ijebu-Ode and Old Abeokuta prisons. There are evidential supports for the integrative/alliance theory as key findings of this study confirm determinants of adjustability of the inmates to prison life as including age, level of religious commitment, years of incarceration, prison history, and pre-prison experience like socioeconomic, marital (especially those with children) and educational status. Various strategies used to adjust to prison life by the inmates included self-withdrawal, indulgence and some level of social reclusion (asceticism); forging cordial relationships with fellow inmates and staff; and participating very actively in the religious programmes within the prisons. The study suggests that both government and nongovernmental organisations should intervene and develop social supports that recognise the biogenic peculiarities of female inmates in order for the prisons to meet the two objectives of rehabilitating and reforming the female offenders.  

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International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory | ISSN : 1916-2782