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What is "recovery" and who is it for?

Sarah's picture

As I began reading Chapter 4 of Offending Women I was both worried and happy about the different approaches the staff had toward how to help the women in their facility “recover”. I was worried because if these differences led to constant disagreement and distrust between the staff members this would be apparent and hurtful to the women in Visions. However, I think it is helpful to have different perspectives and approach to recovery. The goal of recovery is something the staff seems to agree on: “In short, Visions’ discourse of recovery offered a clear, easy-to-follow interpretation of the inmates’ problems: low-self esteem led to addiction, which then led to even lower self-esteem. It also led to a clear easy-to-follow model of treatment: reflection and introspection heightened self-esteem and thus ended addiction”. This statement makes me think of the language and separation between different types of crime and offenders. For example, is the recovery model also applicable to white collar criminals? My personal instinct says no because I question whether the prerequisite of low self esteem applies to these criminals (do they need to improve their self esteem and recover from greed for instance?). But this question also makes me uncomfortable about the language that is used in some case to discuss offenders who have had less privileged lives. While I do think it is better to recognize that structures in place that may have led many of these offenders to situations of crime, such as drug use, I also worry that using language like “helping” and “recovery” is patronizing and still keeping these offenders in a position of being subhuman. I’m not sure if what I am saying is making sense, but basically I am trying to get at the lack of universality between crime and punishment and also struggling with appropriate language to use in regards to offenders who have lived lives that created a pipeline into the criminal world. And although a lack of universality is not surprising, how can we set up a set that has regulation while still recognizes the individual?



sdane's picture

Yes, I completely agree that

Yes, I completely agree that there is a huge difference in the way the criminal justice systems not only treats different crimes differently, but treats different “criminals” differently.  I don’t think that most white collar criminals would be subject to the same kind of recovery-based programs if an alternative prison was set up for them.  For me, it seems like the idea of therapy and recovery really is hugely tied up in the idea of a panopticon and keeping a watchful view of everyone.  The fact that women at Visions had to share and confess what they were thinking in front of everyone else very much reminded me of the way the guard at Eastern State could look down and see all the prison blocks.  In both situations, there is a sense of surveillance and also the assumption that certain individuals are unable to control themselves if they’re not being watched.  But this panopticon is only necessary for certain people – in this case women of color – but not white collar criminals, who are often framed as seemingly more benign.