The United States criminal justice system emphasizes punishment, in the form of incarceration, over the rehabilitation of individuals convicted of criminal activity. While confinement is harmful to many inmates, incarcerated women are even more vulnerable to the extent that they are disproportionately survivors of domestic violence and abuse. Given this vulnerability, the primary purpose of this study is to explore the impact of incarceration on survivors of domestic violence and abuse. I aim first to analyze the ways in which punitive institutions replicate dynamics of abuse, often retraumatizing female survivors of domestic violence. I then evaluate the policies and procedures utilized by “trauma-informed” systems of care, a framework that actively mitigates subsequent exposure to trauma through community integration and relationship building. This evaluation is done in order to weigh the likelihood of a broader trauma-informed prison model, in the context of the punitive nature of the United States criminal justice system. To accomplish these aims, I reviewed relevant literature by which to ground a qualitative research study. I then collected data through interviews with professionals involved in the criminal justice system, as well as with formerly incarcerated survivors of abuse. My findings indicate (a) the direct and indirect connections between domestic violence and incarceration; (b) the negative, lasting effects of trauma upon survivors of abuse; (c) the extent and mechanisms through which punitive institutions replicate dynamics of domestic violence and abuse and; (d) opportunities and barriers related to the implementation of a trauma-informed prison model. I conclude by offering a non-carceral, restorative justice approach to the criminal justice system, one which advocates for the healing of all three parties impacted by harm: the survivor, the abuser, and the community in which the harm has taken place.


Tierney, Thomas

Second Advisor

Thomas, Zareen


Sociology and Anthropology; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Arts and Humanities | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Prison, women, trauma, abuse, domestic violence, trauma-informed, qualitative research, interviews

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



© Copyright 2020 Eliana Kahn