Managing Ties and Time: Men's and Women's Reports of Relationships during Men's Incarceration and Re-entry
Crowder, Lori A
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Examining correctional supervision’s effect on intimate partner relationships is important in that strong family ties are crucial to male prisoners’ post-release success. However, correctional control impedes normal family relationship functioning, and often damages relationships such that they cannot be easily repaired, if at all. The need to maintain relationship ties through a system of control designed for isolation and punishment lies at the heart of this study. This study examined how correctional supervision through prison and parole affects intimate partner relationships among African Americans. Using secondary analysis of individual interview data collected through a qualitative multistate study with men in prison or on parole and the intimate partners of such men, this present study systematically examined the ways in which men’s correctional supervision influenced the functioning of intimate partner relationships during incarceration and community reentry. Secondarily, this study examined how men and women managed their relationships during men’s correctional supervision, exploring what is helpful and what is harmful to the relationship during this period. Finally, this study examined relationship conflict, exploring relationship expectations and what occurs when those expectations are unmet. Findings indicate that correctional supervision acts on relationships between men and women to diminish their value to each other; to complicate relationship management and maintenance by creating barriers to contact; and to influence expectations of the other, creating or exacerbating relationship conflict. Further, incarceration erodes trust between men and women, substantiating a need for both to demonstrate their trustworthiness or verify it through others. Finally, women described their experience of men’s incarceration as a separate prison characterized by their own contact with the correctional system, loneliness, depression, and limited support due to the contagious stigma of incarceration.
Intimate Partner Relationships