A qualitative perspective on an ‘exceptional’ penal setting: A brief insight into female ex-offenders’ lived experiences of crime and criminal justice in Sweden

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Date(s) - 23/10/2013
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Monash University, Clayton Campus

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Date: Wed 23 October 2013
Time: 1-2pm
Location: Room N402 (4th Floor, Menzies Building), Monash University Clayton
RSVP  Online: Bree.Carlton@monash.edu

Linnéa Österman, PhD Candidate, University of Surrey, UK 

I will in this paper present a selection of emergent findings from my doctoral research ‘Stories Across Borders: How female ex-offenders make sense of their journey through crime and criminal justice in cross-national contexts’, which aims to comparatively explore female ex-offenders’ experiences of crime and criminal justice in Sweden and England. While comparative criminology remains an area overwhelmingly dominated by quantitative methods; it is suggested that in order to grasp the lived aspects of crime and criminal justice in different national settings, comparative perspectives must move beyond large-scale measures and also include qualitative viewpoints. Grounded in a feminist methodological framework, this research draws on a sample of life-story narrative interviews conducted with ex-offending women across Sweden and England. Having just finalised the data collection process in the two countries, I will in this paper reflect specifically on the Swedish part of my sample. Sweden, with its long-standing history of social democracy, is well known for its strong support of feminism and consistently ranks in the top stratum on formal gender equality measures. Moreover, Sweden, along with its Scandinavian neighbours, is also a country commonly presented in the literature as a key example of penal ‘exceptionalism’; typically characterised by low rates of imprisonment and humane prison conditions. Wishing to add a unique qualitative perspective to this particular criminological penal arena within the comparative literature, this paper aims to provide a first-hand insight into female ex-offenders’ lived experiences of crime and criminal justice in Sweden, including exploring the role of gender in her pathway into and out of crime and her subjective understanding of justice.