Devoted Moms and Deadbeat Dads: The Gendering of Parenthood in Parole Hearings

Danielle Lavin-Loucks, University of Texas - Dallas

How does the status of family relationships, primarily parenthood, affect case dispositions in parole hearings? A recent study of the parole process contends that positive and engative family relationships have a marked impact on the decision to release an offender. This paper examines not only the direction of this influence, but the gender of this influence. Specifically, this paper addresses how parole board members and offenders seeking parole release collaboratively construct identities and portraits of offenders' familial relationships and how these constructions are gendered. Based on ethnographic observations and a conversation analysis of 438 parole hearings, I contend that the identitied of devoted moms and deadbeat dads are co-constructed in and through the types of quyestions, accusations, and statements board members issue to inmates. These constructions represent an underlying gendered quality to parole hearings insofar as they reflect a valuation of motherhood and a devaluation of fatherhood.

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Updated 05/20/2006