Acknowledging the Stigmatized: Sex Offenders and Their Outlooks versus Women in Relationships with Incarcerated Men and Their Perceptions of the Criminal Justice System

Caroline Womer


Offenders are a stigmatized group of individuals, making it difficult for society to proffer second chances so willingly. Furthermore, many women in relationships with offenders suffer the stigma that offenders themselves experience. This
study offers a theoretical contribution that focuses mostly on sex offenders in an attempt to help reshape their perceptions and bring clarity to an existing theoretical framework. Sex offenders’ outlooks were examined and placed into a three schema approach (instrumental, political, and cultural schemas), implemented from a previous study, based on their overall mentality and how they have rationalized their offenses. Similarly, women’s perceptions of the criminal justice system, based on society’s views toward their relationship with an offender, were categorized into the three schemas to contrast the
varying types of stigma. In this study, about 40 letters from sex offenders, as well as select stories from a book containing sex offender accounts, were coded and analyzed under this framework using Atlas-ti. Additionally, twelve interviews were carried out with women in relationships with incarcerated men. Results suggest that while many sex offenders desire change, they do not take full responsibility for their actions, meaning that these particular offenders’ outlooks do not fit neatly into one schema. A fourth schema, christened the “chimerical schema”, is proposed to further explain offenders’ outlooks. Mostof the women’s perceptions, however, easily fit into one of the three schemas, rendering the fourth schema unnecessary. This study will add to an existing theoretical framework, making it more applicable to other marginalized groups.

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