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The Stock Narratives of Persistent Offenders: Intersectional Variations and Their Implications for Imagined Future Lives

Wed, Nov 15, 5:00 to 6:20pm, Marriott, Grand Ballroom Salon C, 5th Floor


Narratives have returned as an important resource for understanding how prisoners make sense of their lives or how they construct the causal links in their life stories. However, as a number of scholars have pointed out, these narratives do not emerge sui genersis; they are drawn from culturally and institutionally grounded templates, This suggests that both race and gender should be critical to understanding how offenders interpret their life experiences and imagine their futures. We draw on a sample of persistent offenders’ narratives (n= 49 men, n=54 women) to examine how they use cultural templates (structural constraints, victimization, and relationships) and institutional templates (addiction and responsiblilization) to construct their social identities. These narratives were based on interviews framed by a life history calendar and a modification of Canter and Youngs (2015) Life as a Film. Our analyses reveal how race and gender, in tandem, shape prisoners understandings of their past lives of offending and, in turn, their prospects for change.