Women are discharged daily from correctional institutions across the world. Many of these women cycle in and out of jail and experience the “revolving door syndrome,” characterized by release, reimprisonment, and subsequent rerelease into the community. Although many factors contribute to this phenomenon, there is limited understanding of its impact on imprisoned women, including their perceptions of returning to community life.
This phenomenological study examined the lived experiences of women who were imprisoned, released to the community, and returned to custody.
Twelve women, nine of whom were Indigenous were interviewed at the Women's Correctional Centre in Manitoba. Individual, face-to-face, in-depth interviews were employed using a woman-centered conversational approach. Qualitative thematic analysis, informed by van Manen's approach, was used to inductively arrive at themes.
Themes and subthemes organized around van Manen's existentials (temporality, spatiality, relationality, and corporeality) highlight the barriers and challenges women face as they try to sustain change in their lives to avoid the revolving door. Threaded through their accounts are experiences of personal and historical trauma, painful childhoods, difficult relationships, and ineffective or absent personal and systemic supports.
This study highlights the need for trauma-informed comprehensive health care and programing sensitive to women's experience of trauma in their complex lives. Nurses need to partner with service providers and policy makers to address the social/economical inequities that impede the positive life changes these women need to make to prevent reimprisonment.