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In contrast to Kim’s childhood and adolescence, Muriel’s life was that of a lawabiding lower working-class girl and then middle class housewife until she was convicted of murdering her husband and given a life sentence [NOTE: prisoners given ‘life sentences’ can serve varying lengths of time in prison]. However, and as we saw above, her first marriage had ended in divorce because of her husband’s domestic violence and the murder conviction relating to the death of her second husband had resulted from Muriel being too terrified of her lover to tell the police that he had recounted to her how he had killed her (second) husband.

He came back and told me; it was horrendous. My mind was in an awful state. He threatened me with my life. I thought, ‘God, he’s just killed Martin, he might kill me’. And he said I hadn’t to say anything to the police. I said, ‘What do I say if they come round?’ and he said, ‘Tell them nothing, tell them nothing’ Well, I just did what he said and I didn’t say anything to the police. But when they found out [that we had been having an affair] all hell was let loose.

As a consequence of Muriel’s failure to tell the police what she knew, the prosecution maintained that she had plotted to have her husband killed and a murder conviction was the result.

During her years in prison Muriel had had plenty of time to review her life and realise how male-dependent she had been during both her marriages.

Overall, men shaped my life. I had no confidence, my self-esteem was quite low, and so getting married, having a man, finding a man, was an achievement: ‘Oh, I must be alright’ and then, of course, having children. My [second] husband told me I wasn’t bright, I was thick, I was stupid, and I think because of my low self esteem and having no confidence I was attracted to that sort of man. Now, I think, my eyes have been opened to women’s rights, and male power too.

Sub Hypothesis 1.6. Social networks, the neighbourhood, or multigenerational patterns may strongly influence the type of crime committed. This hypothesis has been upheld historically by the criminological literature, and all the evidence from our fieldwork suggests that it is still sustainable at the beginning of the twenty first century. However, it is likely to be sustainable primarily because the characteristics of most women in prison are not such that they have a wide range of opportunities for crime commission and, as a consequence, their crimes are likely to occur close to where they live.

Neighbourhood studies of crime and victimization have been a regular feature of criminological research and the hypothesis above may seem to state the obvious. Certainly, and as the criminologist E. H. Sutherland (1939) taught us long ago, in certain areas it is the well-socialised child who will enter the local economy and culture of crime, and it is worth remembering this when we appraise the potential of psychology- based programmes of intervention into criminal careers. However, studies of prostitution and replies from the professionals we interviewed indicate that social networks and neighbourhood have an especially strong relationship to prostitution and drug-related crimes.

Living in [state] care…is said to put young people at particular risk of entry to prostitution because of the social stigma, marginalisation and ‘otherness’ related to being in care. (Cusick 2003, drawing on Kirby 1995)

Prostitution and drugs-taking is also related, and even when prostitution is not involved in a young person’s criminal activity, most of the agents interviewed mentioned that, ‘returning to the same neighbourhood’ would constitute a definite risk (of recidivism ) factor in a woman’s post prison career.


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