Abstract: Black Women with Justice Involvement Navigating Harm As They Pursue Healing: An Examination of Structural Violence within Treatment Systems (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

Black Women with Justice Involvement Navigating Harm As They Pursue Healing: An Examination of Structural Violence within Treatment Systems

Friday, January 13, 2023
Paradise Valley, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Alana Gunn, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL
Background: Black women with justice involvement (BWJI) navigate myriad forms of harms as they reintegrate back into society. These overlapping forms of harms include interpersonal violence, the traumas associated with complex illness experiences as well as stigmatization, which can lead to perceived social rejection, disbarment, and shame. In addition, BWJI also experience structural harms as they pursue recovery and seek support from state systems which reinforce marginalization and devaluation through practices, policies, and their cultural ethos. Emerging research efforts have begun to explore the ways in which justice involved communities experience myriad forms of structural violence along their life cycle. This current work seeks to advance this emerging and critical attention towards system-level harm.

Methods: This presentation is based on a community-engaged research study conducted to understand how BWJI experience and navigate multiple systems of harm as they re-engage in their families and communities. The study recruited 28 Black women who were recently released from incarceration and currently engaging in a mandated substance use treatment program. This study was also developed and carried out in conjunction with a community advisory board (CAB) assembled specifically for this project. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used to conduct semi-structured qualitative interviews and analyze the meaning making process of justice involved women navigating both recovery from illness as well as re-entry back into their families and communities.

Results: Findings from qualitative interviews indicate that BWJI experience systemic violence within drug treatment facilities which communicate harmful messages about respectability and “proper womanhood” through practices that reify devalued gendered and racialized statuses. Moreover, the data also reveals that as BWJI pursue wounded healing roles they also face structural harms which reinforce narrow constructions of reentry and relegate them to roles as care workers in pursuit of redemption and healing.

Conclusion: Implications of this study call for a critical ethics of care and justice within systems that reconstructs care work in ways to promote healthier reintegration for BWJI who seek recovery from multiple forms of systemic harms. Moreover, a critical ethics of care and justice interrogates power and control relations in social work to advance anti-oppressive policies and practices.