The Gendered Pains of Life Imprisonment

Ben Crewe, Susie Hulley, Serena Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As many scholars have noted, women remain peripheral in most analyses of the practices and effects of imprisonment. This article aims to redress this pattern by comparing the problems of long-term confinement as experienced by male and female prisoners, and then detailing the most significant and distinctive problems reported by the latter. It begins by reporting data that illustrate that the women report an acutely more painful experience than their male counterparts. It then focuses on the issues that were of particular salience to the women: loss of contact with family members; power, autonomy and control; psychological well-being and mental health; and matters of trust, privacy
and intimacy. The article concludes that understanding how women experience long sentences is not possible without grasping the multiplicity of abuse that the great majority have experienced in the community, or without recognizing their emotional commitments and biographies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1359–1378
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number6
Early online date9 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Women prisoners
  • Life sentences
  • Pre-incarceration
  • Trauma
  • Prison

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