Hostels and Community Justice for Women: The 'Semi-Penal' Paradox

Alana Barton, Vickie Cooper

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In this chapter we examine the use of hostels, arguing that these institutions are paradoxical in terms of the delivery of ‘justice’ for women. We begin, on a practical level, by examining the scarcity and uneven geographical spread of hostel accommodation for women, contending that this has detrimental implications for any notion of resettlement into the ‘community’. We then continue by examining those institutions that are available for women and we conceptualise these as ‘semi-penal’ (Barton, 2004; 2005). Here we propose that women’s hostels represent a blurring of the ideological boundaries both between the prison and the domestic sphere and between the construction of ‘criminal/deviant’ and ‘vulnerable/needy’ identities. We highlight that, in addition to approved probation premises, non-statutory hostels (traditionally utilised for vulnerable but non-criminal women) are part of a ‘semi-penal web’ (see Archard, 1979). Finally, we argue that women-specific regimes in semi-penal institutions are not dissimilar to those of the prison, in that they can serve to reproduce feminized identities through dominant gendered ideologies of the ‘home’ and techniques of maternalistic governance. In particular we examine how the supremacy of the concepts of personal responsibility and ‘empowerment’, achieved primarily thorough compulsory ‘groupwork’ and ‘self-reflection’, can be conceptualised as contractual and feminised forms of governance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWomen, Punishment and Social Justice: Human Rights and Penal Practices
EditorsMargaret Malloch, Gill McIvor
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages230
ISBN (Print)978-0-415-52983-9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

Publication series

NameRoutledge Frontiers of Criminal Justice


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