The recursive relationship between substance abuse, prostitution, and incarceration: Voices from a long-term cohort of women

Erin M. Kerrison | Social Welfare | Victims & Offenders, 2019

Relying on interview data from a cohort of drug-involved women originally released from prison in the 1990s and interviewed between 2010 and 2011, this paper examines the role that prostitution played in their lives. These women were arrested an average of 16 times in their lives, and their criminal records prevented them from obtaining legitimate employment, which resulted in nearly half of the sample engaging in “survival prostitution.” Consistent with the Identity Theory of Desistance, narratives from those who successfully exited prostitution reveal the cognitive transformations that began when they envisioned their “feared self” (e.g. dying on the street). This research illuminates the complexities inherent in the desistance process for a contemporary sample of drug-involved adult women entrenched within the criminal justice system.