Emma Wincup (2000)
'Surviving through Substance Use: The Role of Substances in the Lives
of Women who Appear before the Courts'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 4, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/4/4/wincup.html>
To cite articles published in Sociological Research Online, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary
Received: 5/8/1998 Accepted: 15/12/1999 Published: 29/2/2000
I've only ever smoked spliffs. I wouldn't touch other drugs. (Rebecca)
I took drugs before but I ended up in hospital because of it. It was a one-off (Lindsey)
I took amphetamines for five years. (Margaret, 33)
I took heroin and crack. I've been taking it for ten years. (Siobhan, 25)
I've been taking drugs since I was 13. I took cannabis, speed, Es, rock. (Ruth, 21)
Heroin. I've been taking that for, well when I was 20 I meet up with a guy and he was taking heroin. I got involved with it when I was with him. (Sue, 28)
I can't remember how long I've taken drugs for. I took wizz, draw and E for years. (Judith, 21)
I know all my offences are drug-related. I went from 1990 to 1994 without using drugs. I was clean and I didn't get into trouble with the law. (Siobhan, charged with handling stolen property)I think it helps to look at the circumstances of their lives and to look for patterns of offending. I see this with drug users where when they have been using drugs, there are lots of offences and when they've been off it, it's stopped. (Staff member, Victoria House)
You look at the 609 [criminal record] and you see the definite links with them needing money to support that habit. (Staff member, Victoria House)
That's when I began to get into trouble, It was sending my head funny, I wasn't thinking straight (Judith who assaulted a police officer when under the influence of drink and drugs)
These women lead dangerous lives . . . Throughout the time I've worked here we've had quite a number of women return from buying drugs who have been seriously assaulted. (Staff member, Victoria House)
Some of the women, none at the moment, usually have pimps hanging around. Hopefully getting methadone will break that link but it comes back to the fact that some of the women are so frightened of these men that control them that they still go out there and work for these people or they will be physically attacked. (Staff member, Victoria House)
I took amphetamines for five years . . . I was with someone at the time and she was on them and so I went along with her and I liked it so I said 'I'll have a bit of that'. (Margaret)
I've been taking it [heroin and crack] for ten years . . . I don't know how I got involved. I was just very young with nothing to do and very impressionable. I don't know. (Siobhan).
My brothers, they are all involved in drugs and crime. It's in the family. (Ruth)
I met up with a guy and he was taking heroin. He was bad into. I got involved with it . . . He used to beat me up. I had a really bad life with him . . . In the end I had to move away to get away from him, the beating and the drugs. Every time I left him, he found me and beat me up. I didn't realise it would be so hard to come off heroin. (Sue)
At the beginning I could control it, but then it took over. I was taking it ever day then. (Margaret)
With heroin, it's not like you can stop. If you smoke hash you can wake up one day and say I'm not going to do this anymore. You can't with heroin. It goes on and on and on. (Siobhan)
My job [fashion designer] was high pressure and parties and very glitzy. It's great if you are shallow but it makes it hard to be clean and live a balanced life; and to look after myself and my daughter - mentally and physically. The two didn't go together very well. (Siobhan)
I'm trying to give up but I always hang around with the wrong people. I don't know anyone who doesn't use drugs. (Ruth)
You can't give up in this place [Carlton House] because everyone brings it in and smokes it. (Ruth)
It's so easy to make one little mistake and especially in here [Carlton House] because there has been two girls who are still taking heroin and I'm frightened in case they offer me it because I'm still vulnerable. I haven't got to the stage yet where I can say no (Sue)
Where I live is awful. It's crack city and there are lot of drugs. Just as I walk out of my house and turn the corner, there's heroin. I have to walk past that every day. It makes it easy if you feel weak one day. (Siobhan)
But drug and alcohol are not the problem. There is a problem why they are on drugs or have a drink problem: sexual violence, physical violence, emotional abuse. (Hostel worker, Victoria House)
The initial problem presented is the drug or alcohol use which has brought them into the situation, but underneath that we are often dealing with people's past lives, which I presume they are trying to mask through drug use. The main issues in that are abuse throughout childhood into their adult lives, parent's violence, sexual abuse, women who spend a lot of time in care. (Hostel worker, Victoria House).
Their own experiences as children are often what they bring to us. It doesn't go away until somebody is able to look at it. Drug and alcohol use is a way of obliterating those feelings and coping with the pain. (Hostel worker, Carlton House)
Taking amphetamines was fun at the time. (Margaret)
It helps me get through the boredom of the day and makes life more bearable. (Ruth)
I don't drink everyday . . . when I'm flush. I drink to socialise. (Margaret)
I drink socially. (Kelly)
A nice bottle of wine in the night with friends but nothing more. (Rebecca)
The only time I drink is when my boyfriend visits me, or me and my friend might go to the shop and get some drink. When I say a drink I only mean one can of lager, just one. (Sue)
I've got my ale and I'll turn to a drink of vodka if I'm upset. (Margaret)
I get strung out and depressed. Then I have a drink. (Rebecca)
I've got a drink problem as well [as a drug problem]. I used to go to Alcoholics Anonymous because I drink a lot. I used to drink more or less every night.' (Ruth)
Now I only drink alcohol free lager to be sociable. Drinking too much has got me into trouble in the past. It made me aggressive and I assaulted a police officer. (Judith)
I've stopped drinking since I've been here but I'm still screwed up. I'm supposed to be going for counselling but I'm never going to be able to give up . . . I'm only going to start drinking again. I don't want it give it up completely I just want to slow down. I can't sit in a pub with my mates and not have a drink. (Ruth)
I can't drink at the moment because I'm not allowed in anywhere that sells alcohol. The offence [GBH with intent] I'm charged with happened after me and my mates had been out drinking. (Lindsey)
You see this murder [the murder of her partner, Brian] has happened due to drink. (Heather)
I drink mostly at weekends . . . I'll have four of five pints and a couple of shorts at weekends. (Lindsey)
Brian [her partner] was a very heavy drinker. He'd have sold his mother to get a drink and I tried to keep him that he didn't need to. I'm not saying I'm an angel because I used to like a drink and I used to go out with him a lot of the time. We had no commitments, either of us, and I packed my job in in 1985 due to an industrial accident at work.
If he beat me up after he had been drinking I'd stay in until my bruises went down. I never told my family what he was like.
I'm not coping. I keep having anxiety attacks. I'm very low . . . I don't like taking tablets . . . I take them to level them out so I can cope. (Kelly)
I used to be on sleeping tablets and this tablet and that tablet but I weaned myself of them. It was hard but I didn't like taking them. When I was in prison on remand instead of taking pills I used to work so hard in the kitchen that I would exhaust myself and would drop off to sleep quickly. This got me through the difficult nights. (Heather)
I have coped but at times I've been on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Sometimes I've felt like taking tablets. I've only coped because there are people here who support you . . . It's a wonder I haven't cracked up and ended up taking tablets like I have done for most of my life. If I hadn't have been here I think I would have. (Jackie)
People have such emotional baggage that they are often expecting doctors to work miracles, and got to the doctors and hope they will prescribe something to make them feel better, and that isn't going to happen.
It's [taking tranquillisers] not working . . . I like to control everything about myself, to be in control of my life and at the moment I don't have that control and it is hard to cope. (Kelly)
Objectively we live in stress-filled societies in which women's social position and the nature of the female role is more conducive to mental illness than psychological well-being; women are viewed as major health care consumers; dependence on substances, addictive or otherwise in a potentially important factors in any woman's life.
The challenge, then, is to continue the project of exposing and enlarging our vision of what constitutes discriminatory penal practices, while remaining cognisant of the theoretical and political significance of critical feminist analyses of the private prisons of docile yet rebellious bodies, drugged and tranquillised bodies, famished self-policing bodies in which many women lives their lives, 'free' from penal control.
2A similar theoretical framework is used by Carlen (1996) to explain the causes of youth homelessness.
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