Emotions Confined: Working with Emotions & Mothers in Criminal Justice.
Since 1995 the female prison population has doubled. In 1995 6,000 children were affected annually by maternal incarceration – in 2015 The Prison Reform Trust suggest this figure is closer to 18,000. Ergo 18000 children and on average 12000 mothers annually are all experiencing a plethora of emotions triggered by a separation that arguably neither would wish for but all are deeply affected by.
Research such as that of Hedderman (2004), Gelsthorpe & Worrall (2009) and the Corston report (2007) have proved invaluable and insightful in terms of understanding the ‘cost’ of imprisoning mothers, financially, psychologically and emotionally in relation to women and their children. Indeed valuable and influential research in relation to women and their lived experience of custody also exists, (Devlin 1998: Carlen 2004 : Padel 1988) Furthermore there is an ever growing strand of research in relation to Emotion and Criminal Justice (Jewkes 2012: Crawley 2011 :Crewe 2014 ) However there is little in published existence which brings Emotion, Mothers and Criminal justice together.
This paper seeks to discuss the justification for exploring such an emotive topic , how best it might be achieved and what value such research together with developed understanding might have in relation to working with Mothers in the Criminal Justice System.
Is a doctoral researcher, tutor, and research assistant in sociology at the University of Edinburgh. Her research pertains to emotions in social movements, particularly feminism, and how social movement emotion cultures are constructed in and through documents.
Researchers studying emotions sociologically through the use of documentary data are confronted with a variety of questions which may challenge their pre-existing understandings not only of their own positionality in relation to their research, but also of what it means to 'read' emotion in a document: Where do the emotions in my data end and my own emotions begin, and what does it mean for emotion to be 'in' a document? Should my emotions 'be kept out of' the research or used as an analytic tool? Am I an insider or an outsider to the emotional cultures or regimes I am studying, and how can I ascertain this when working with documentary data? Drawing on reflections from my own ongoing research, I will explore some approaches to answering these questions as they bear specifically on the documentary researcher. Through the use of emotional and methodological reflexivities, researchers can establish some clarity about their position as emotional subjects in relation to their documentary data sources, and can then utilise this understanding when making decisions throughout the analytic process about how, and to what extent, their own emotions can be utilised in the research.