The multidimensionality of "pains of imprisonment" Among incarcerated women in Israel

Michal Soffer, Mimi Ajzenstadt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study re-examined Gresham Sykes's initial conceptualization of "pains of imprisonment" as it applied to women inmates. It contextualized these pains within the women's social experiences both inside and outside the only women's prison in Israel. Semi- structured interviews with 42 female prisoners were conducted. Two counter-themes emerged from our analysis. The first one por- trayed prison as punishment, a "painful condition," a stressful event that included deprivation, negative meaning, suffering, and pain. The opposite-and more dominant-theme framed incarceration as a positive experience, during which the prisoners received nurturing, care, and treatment, which they had not been afforded in the outside world. We found that "pains of imprisonment" was a multidimensional and complex phenomena that included contradicting emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. "Pains of imprisonment" was part of a larger group of pains that extended beyond the time and place of prison.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-505
Number of pages15
JournalWomen and Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Pains of imprisonment
  • Positive accounts of imprisonment
  • Women prisoners

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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