Disciplining Through Force: a Death in Custody
Looking at Ashley Smith’s case brings the question of physical discipline in prisons (which is illegal) or the
treatment of women in general
Challenges of Women- Centered Research
Too few to count
- Less than 20% of prison population
- Androcentricity (male behaviour is human behaviour)
The emphasis in research is on men – their recidivism, etc. Research on women in the system is
much harder because there are so few of them.
Sexism in research
o Add women and stir (we take theoretical explanations and assume that what works
for men works for women – i.e. strip searching has the same impact on prisoners, no
matter the gender.)
The studies were hardly being done in the USA and weren’t at all in Canada – can’t even try to
say “this happened here, so we’ll apply the same thing there”
Did the institutional response increase her suicidal and self-injurious behaviour? (Is what the system
doing causing her behaviour? To ask about the opposite is psychology)
- Independent and dependent variables
Things like strip searching, exposure to Tasers, mace and pepper spray.
Is the effect of punishment gendered? Does it affect men and women differently?
- Need to compare data
These are almost unanswerable because of the lack of data.
Probation Federal Prison; Segregation; Tasers; Forced transfers Death; no
Youth Detention No treatment Chemical restraints and sedation staff response
During this cycle, Ashley’s defiant behaviour, suicide attempts, and self-injury gets progressively worse,
this causes longer segregation, more exposure to Tasers and more “need” for chemical restraints
Research Design Considerations
Exploratory: unique and unknown
- Access restricted (they’re not going to let just anyone in, especially if they’re questioning the
use of force on prisoners)