Resocialization, gender and the Global South: A critical analysis of the concept through women's experiences in prisons in Peru

Published date01 November 2023
AuthorLucia Bracco Bruce
Date01 November 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Resocialization, gender and the
Global South: A critical analysis
of the concept through
womens experiences in prisons
in Peru
Lucia Bracco Bruce
Department of Social Science, Pontif‌icia Universidad Católica del Perú,
In this article, I critically assess the concept of resocialization through discussions with
women in Santa Monica Prison, the largest womens prison in Peru in 2018 and with
former women prisoners in 2021. Alongside the formal, institutional gendered and
classed forms and ideas of resocialization imposed by the prison, the women themselves
innovate and develop new, collective and individual pathways to change. While few
entirely disrupt the traditional, gendered norms and penal expectations, in their every-
day experiences and collective activities, women seek, and sometimes manage to free
themselves from patriarchal mandates.
Decolonizing, Global South, prison, resocialization, women in prison
In this article, I engage in a critical feminist, decolonial analysis of how prisons seek to
resocializewomen, by drawing on research with current and former Peruvian female
prisoners. In so doing, I contribute to an enduring body of scholarship on womens
imprisonment, which has found it to reproduce traditional gender norms (see
Bosworth, 1999; Bosworth and Kaufman, 2013; Carlen, 1983; Carlen and Worrall,
Corresponding author:
Lucia Bracco Bruce, Department of Social Science, Pontif‌icia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, Peru.
Theoretical Criminology
2023, Vol. 27(4) 555572
© The Author(s) 2023
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/13624806231197641
2004; Howe, 1994; Moran et al., 2009). In Latin America, specif‌ically, critical scholars
have argued that Catholic mandates have sought to transform female prisoners to repro-
ducers of care (Aguirre, 2003; Calandria and González, 2021; Guala, 2016). Prisons here
seek to dominate and domesticate women through moralizing punitive and paternalistic
mandates in order to transform them into docile and submissive subjects (Ballester, 2021;
Bracco, 2022a; Cacopardo and Malacalza, 2019; Carranza, 2016; Guala, 2016;
Romero-García, 2017).
At the same time, the women are not entirely passive. Rather, as I will demonstrate,
womens prisons are shaped by informal-customarydimensionsaswellasbymore
formal-institutional ones. In multiple, informal ways, female prisoners create subjective
and collective transformations that I def‌ine as forms of self-discovery,governance of
common goodsand entrepreneurial. Below I examine each of these actions in more detail.
Methodological approach
This article draws on conversations with Peruvian women who were either currently or
formerly in prison over two different periods.
The f‌irst stage was a six-month ethno-
graphic study in Santa Monica, Peru, in 2018. In that period, I visited the prison four
days a week for four to f‌ive hours each day, during which I circulated without the super-
vision of staff. This time provided me the opportunity to have formal and informal con-
versations with the women while observing their daily activities including workshops
(e.g. labour and educational) and leisure time on the patio. I also conducted semi-
structured interviews with 15 incarcerated women whom I met between two and four
times each, producing approximately 50 hours of audio-recorded dialogue. The second
stage of the research included interviews with three former prisoners from Chorrillos
2, a smaller womens prison located next to Santa Monica in 2021. These semi-structured
interviews, which lasted about an hour each, were also audio-recorded.
In both parts of the research project, I asked the women about their experiences of the
formal resocialization processes in prison. We discussed how their everyday practices,
actions and ref‌lections connected to their personal transformations and to newcapabil-
ities that they believed would be useful for their life after imprisonment. Both prisons
were medium security, and all the research participants used the same language to
address the resocialization process (INPE, 2018).
Although I do not have specif‌ic data about the women I spoke to, it is possible to
provide a general demographic prof‌ile based on the f‌irst (and only) national census of
the penitentiary population nationwide (INEI, 2016). More than half the women in
prison in Peru (59%) are single. The majority (88.3%) are mothers. Most (around
58%) have not completed elementary or secondary school. Regarding employment
status, 86% were dedicated to being a houseworker before imprisonment.
Regarding eth-
nicity, 54.4% self-identify as Mestiza, 16% as Quechua or Aymara, and 7.7% as
Most women (68.5%) are in prison for the f‌irst time, while 95.3% did
not use a weapon and 90% had not consumed any drugs at the time of their conviction.
For the data analysis, I f‌irst transcribed the interviews, read the transcripts several
times to familiarize myself with the data (Braun and Clarke, 2006) and connected the
transcripts with my f‌ield notes. I then thematically organized the data into categories
556 Theoretical Criminology 27(4)

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