Criminal Women

Gender Matters

Sharon Grace, Maggie O’Neill, Tammi Walker, Hannah King, Lucy Baldwin, Alison Jobe, Orla Lynch, Fiona Measham, Kate O’Brien and Vicky Seaman

With a Foreword by Pat Carlen

and an Afterword by Loraine Gelsthorpe

First published in Great Britain in 2022 by

Bristol University Press

University of Bristol

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t: +44 (0)117 954 5940


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© Bristol University Press 2022

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A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978-1-5292-0839-9 hardcover

ISBN 978-1-5292-0841-2 paperback

ISBN 978-1-5292-0842-9 ePub

ISBN 978-1-5292-0844-3 ePdf

The right of Sharon Grace, Maggie O’Neill, Tammi Walker, Hannah King, Lucy Baldwin, Alison Jobe, Orla Lynch, Fiona Measham, Kate O’Brien and Vicky Seaman to be identified as authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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  • List of Figures and Table v

  • Notes on the Authors vi

  • Acknowledgements vii

  • Foreword

    Pat Carlen viii

  1. Introduction

    Sharon Grace, Maggie O’Neill, Tammi Walker, Hannah King, Lucy Baldwin, Alison Jobe, Orla Lynch, Fiona Measham, Kate O’Brien and Vicky Seaman 1

  2. 1Hearing the Voices of Women Involved in Drugs and Crime

    Sharon Grace 14

  3. 2Knifing Off? The Inadequacies of Desistance Frameworks for Women in the Criminal Justice System in Ireland

    Vicky Seaman and Orla Lynch 37

  4. 3Sex Work, Criminalisation and Stigma: Towards a Feminist Criminological Imagination

    Maggie O’Neill and Alison Jobe 63

  5. 4Criminal Women in Prison Who Self-harm: What Can We Learn from Their Experiences?

    Tammi Walker 87

  6. 5Criminal Mothers: The Persisting Pains of Maternal Imprisonment

    Lucy Baldwin, with Mary Elwood and Cassie Brown 107

  7. 6‘The World Split Open’: Writing, Teaching and Learning with Women in Prison

    Hannah King, Kate O’Brien and Fiona Measham, with Verity-Fee, Phoenix, Iris and Angel 132

  8. 7Women’s Biographies through Prison

    Verity-Fee, Phoenix, Iris and Angel, with Hannah King, Kate O’Brien and Fiona Measham 149

  • Afterword

    Loraine Gelsthorpe 173

  • Index 175

List of Figures and Table


  1. 2.1Key themes from grounded analysis 51
  2. 3.1Creative methods to promote dialogue and imagination 71
  3. 6.1The Prisoners 137
  4. 6.2The Mothers 137
  5. 6.3Mother with Dead Child 137


  1. 1.1Profile of the women 19

Notes on the Authors

Lucy Baldwin is Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Health and Life Sciences at De Montfort University, UK.

Sharon Grace is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of York, UK.

Alison Jobe is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Durham University, UK.

Hannah King is Associate Professor of Criminology at Durham University, UK.

Orla Lynch is Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Director of Research for the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University College Cork, Ireland.

Fiona Measham is Chair in Criminology at the University of Liverpool, UK and Director of The Loop (UK and Australia).

Kate O’Brien is Assistant Professor in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Durham University, UK.

Maggie O’Neill is Professor of Sociology and Criminology and Head of Department at the University College Cork, Ireland.

Vicky Seaman is Support Worker with the Cork Alliance Centre and a PhD Criminology candidate at University College Cork, Ireland.

Tammi Walker is Professor of Forensic Psychology and College Principal at Durham University, UK.


The authors would like to thank Professor Carlen for providing the inspiration for the book and for writing the foreword. We would also like to thank Loraine Gelsthorpe for writing the endnote, and we thank both for their contribution to feminist criminology.

We dedicate this book firstly to all the women across the UK and Ireland who gave their time to the projects discussed in this book as participants, interviewees, co-researchers and co-writers. We thank you for your time, energy and inspiration.

Secondly, we dedicate this book to all criminalised women to whom we make a commitment to continue to strive for and contribute to positive change.

This book is co-authored by The Criminal Women Voice, Justice and Recognition Network (CWVJR).

Sharon Grace

Maggie O’Neill

Tammi Walker

Hannah King

Lucy Baldwin

Alison Jobe

Orla Lynch

Fiona Measham

Kate O’Brien

Vicky Seaman

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