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Review 2 of "Understanding Disrespectful Behavior Through a Gendered Lens: Racism and Power in a Women’s Prison"

...Qualitative...Criminology

Published onNov 20, 2020
Review 2 of "Understanding Disrespectful Behavior Through a Gendered Lens: Racism and Power in a Women’s Prison"

Vote: Publish pending minor changes


[For votes to count, referees must reasonably explain why they voted as they did. Thus, please explain your vote. If you voted to publish pending minor changes, specify each change, why it is needed, and, possibly, how it should/could be done.]

The manuscript uses qualitative interviews with women in a Midwestern prison to identify the sources of disrespect, power, and racial issues between inmates and staff. I definitely enjoyed reading this paper and I thank the authors for their thoughtful work in an understudied area of research. Below, I make suggestions on ways that I think would be beneficial to the paper overall for publication. I hope my suggestions and comments will help strengthen the manuscript and I look forward to seeing the published version in due time.

o   Introduction:

§  I find the first couple of paragraphs of the introduction to be an odd start to the paper. The authors delve right into their research question, methods, and even results prior to explaining the gaps in knowledge or why the research is important or necessary to begin with. I think a restructuring of the introduction will be helpful for readers to understand why the study is important rather than jumping into the results. In fact, paragraphs 3, 5, & 6 in the introduction would be a great way to begin the paper and lay out the “why” of the research.

o   Literature Review:

§  The paragraph starting with “On the opposite end of the spectrum” should also discuss the power imbalance between inmates & staff as was described in the introduction.

§  I would try to refrain from putting subjective opinions in the LR such as “gender norms & expectations are especially interesting.” Why or how are they considered interesting? Same comment regarding “Power plays an interesting part in these interactions.” Perhaps just a change of adjective there will do.

o   Methods, Tables, & Findings:

§  For Table 1, I think it would be more instructive to compare the women in the sample in terms of race to the women in the entire institution (regardless if they made it into the sampling frame). The authors already detail the final sample vs. the sampling frame in the methods. More detail on the sampling frame is unnecessary. Also, the “sampling frame” heading in Table 1 should be moved over so it’s centered above the “number” and “percent” headings. I suggest changing the heading of the table to match the columns: “Race of Sample Interviewees and Inmates in Custody” rather than sampling frame, especially if you take my advice on the race of all incarcerated women in that prison.

§  Was there a check on interrater reliability among the 3 interviewers to ensure themes that emerged were consistent across researchers? If this wasn’t done, I suggest it. If it was, I suggest reporting the percent of consensus.

§  Although it seems like the interviews were short and interviewees were only asked a few questions, I suggest including a table or appendix of the interview instrument that all researchers used to guide the interviews.  

§  I think it would be helpful to the reader to see a table with the list of particular themes that came up, such as staff training, lack of cultural awareness, power imbalance, etc. It doesn’t need to be broken down by race or anything, just a list with percentages would be helpful. Doing so might help the results section flow a bit better as well since it can be laid out theme by theme.

o   Discussion/Conclusion:

§  In some places when recalling the findings, the authors use the present tense “interviewees do not discuss…”, but in others they use the past tense, “women generally described.” I would just keep it consistent. My advice: when discussing the research/interviews that are now completed use past tense and the current state of knowledge or status should be present tense.

§  I might have missed it, but I don’t see any themes or discussion about how inmates dealt with disrespect among each other. If the authors do not bring to light some of the inmate on inmate interactions, then you can easily remove the second half of Table 2 and structure the whole paper around inmate vs. staff interactions, which would be enough. I also only saw 1 comment about staff treating each other with disrespect (when they were telling inmates about other staff’s personal lives). If that’s the case, then I certainly think the focus of the paper should be streamlined to focus only on inmates vs. staff. After all, inmate-to-inmate interactions as well as staff-to-staff interactions are on the same power level, so it might dilute some of the findings and conclusions by leaving that in.

o   Minor Edits:

§  The Mitchell et al. 2017 cite on p. 3 should be “Mitchell, Fahmy, Pyrooz, & Decker, 2017” (Chantal is the first name).

§  A few citations use “&” (which is appropriate for APA) and others use “and” (e.g., “Butler and Maruna, 2009”). Please update to be consistent

§  For a cited quotation, it should be “Ricciardelli et al., p. 509”

§  Should be “Sabo et al., 2001” (not “all”).

§  “In these facilities, violence is not as serious as “men’s prisons.” Same with “The studies on race in men’s prisons” (not “men’s prison”).  

§  Probably best to name your tables in text “Table 1” and “Table 2” since that’s how they’re named in the actual tables. Also, Table 2’s percentages are squished in all cells, leaving the back end of each of the parentheses “hanging” on the following line.

§  The references are all pushed together in what looks like 1 big paragraph. Please adjust this.

Although you won’t be able to glean as much information about disrespect from men’s prisons (and other cases), I do think that both the front end and discussion could use a little more “couching” in the literature about these interpersonal issues that plague people and could be extended to a women’s prison setting. Some suggestions to incorporate:

o   Crewe (2011) – “Soft power in prison: Implications for staff– prisoner relationships, liberty and legitimacy”

o   Moule & Wallace (2017) – “An experimental investigation into perceptions of disrespect during interpersonal conflict”

o   Butler & Drake (2007) – “Reconsidering Respect: Its Role in Her Majesty’s Prison Service”

o   Colwell (2007) – “Deference or Respect? Status Management Practices Among Prison Inmates”

[Please put additional info below, as/if you see fit.]

I would consider removing “racism” from the paper title only because you find that across the board, none of the interviewees are specifically citing racism per se as an obvious problem (even though given the context, I’m sure it exists plenty!). Maybe it could be something closer to “Understanding Disrespectful Behavior Through a Gendered Lens: Race and Power in a Women’s Prison”

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