Female Imprisonment

An Ethnography of Everyday Life in Confinement

  • Catarina Frois

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology book series (PSIPP)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Catarina Frois
    Pages 1-26
  3. Catarina Frois
    Pages 51-69
  4. Catarina Frois
    Pages 97-122
  5. Catarina Frois
    Pages 123-144
  6. Catarina Frois
    Pages 145-165
  7. Catarina Frois
    Pages 167-187
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 217-231

About this book


This book is a reflection on the nature of confinement, experienced by some people as everyday life. It explores the meanings, purposes, and consequences involved with spending every day inside prison. Female Imprisonment results from an ethnographic study carried out in a small prison facility located in the south of Portugal, and Frois uses the data to analyze how incarcerated women talk about their lives, crimes, and expectations. Crucially, this work examines how these women consider prison: rather than being primarily a place of confinement designed to inflict punishment, but as a place of transformation, self-reconstruction, and even somewhere they can gain an awareness of the significance of their gender as part of their identity. 

From interviews held in this institution, where inmates present their life histories marked by poverty, violence and abuse (whether as victims, as agents, or both), Frois observes that the traditional idea of “doing time”, in the sense of a strenuous, repressive, or restrictive experience, is paradoxically transformed into “having time” - an experience of expanded self-awareness, identity reconstruction, or even of deliverance. Ultimately, this engaging and compassionate study questions and defies customary accounts of the impact of prisons on those subjected to incarceration, and as such will be of great interest for scholars and students of penology and the criminal justice system.


Anthropology of Crime Anthropology of Identity Crime and Identity Purposes for Confinement Meanings of confinement Consequences of confinement Prison Female Incarceration Punishment Identity Crime

Authors and affiliations

  • Catarina Frois
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Research in AnthropologyISCTE – Instituto Universitário de LisboaLisbonPortugal

Bibliographic information