Prisoning Indigenous Women: Strength and Resilience in the Face of Systemic Trauma


  • Jana Grekul



The overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the Canadian criminal justice system is an enduring and systemic issue that must be addressed. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of women behind bars has increased by almost 30 percent; for Indigenous women, this number is 60 percent (Office of the Correctional Investigator 2017). Using a critical feminist criminological lens, this paper explores the ways in which colonial legacies, patriarchy, trauma, and systemic victimization inside and outside the criminal justice system contribute to the criminalization and (over)prisoning of Indigenous women and questions the practice of prisoning an already marginalized and oppressed group of people. Drawing on critical feminist criminological research and empirical studies, I theorize a victimization–criminalization–incarceration cycle concept to explain the ways in which societal- , institutional- , and individual-level factors intersect and impact Indigenous women’s journeys through the criminal justice system in tangled and complicated ways. Future research could provide additional insights into the potential value of this concept for policy and practice.