Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

When state violence comes home: partner violence in an era of mass incarceration

McKay, Tasseli (2020) When state violence comes home: partner violence in an era of mass incarceration. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

[img] Text - Submitted Version
Download (1MB)
Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004179


Research with returning prisoners and their partners finds astoundingly high rates of partner violence—as much as tenfold those observed in the general population. Yet very little is known about its nature or etiology in the context of the American experiment in hyper-incarceration. The current project responds to this gap by integrating qualitative narratives with couples-based, longitudinal survey data to understand the nature and etiology of partner violence among former prisoners and their partners. It draws on data from the Multi-site Family Study on Incarceration, Parenting and Partnering to address four aims: 1. Examine patterns in the use of physical violence and controlling behavior by returning prisoners and their partners using latent class analysis and a stratified qualitative case study. 2. Investigate qualitative understandings and experiences of partner violence among returning prisoners and their partners and their perceived connection to experiences of state and structural violence through an inductive qualitative analysis. 3. Test quantitative relationships between individual criminal justice system exposure and later partner violence perpetration using structural equation modeling with couples-based survey data. 4. Examine whether and how local social and material conditions associated with mass incarceration predict partner violence perpetration by men returning from prison using structural equation modeling with couples-based survey data linked to representative data sources on local characteristics. This work reveals dense connections between government-sanctioned violence and acts of 4 violence in private homes and relationships. Applying Bronfenbrenner’s social ecological framework to synthesize results from four empirical inquiries, the study links partner violence to the state violence of criminalization and imprisonment and the structural violence of material deprivation and heightened mortality in hyper-incarcerated communities. The stories told by former prisoners and their partners reveal the coextension of violence and penal authority across carceral, domestic, and street spaces. They highlight how strategies of resistance to authority in one sphere become tools of domination in another and how heteropatriarchal social structures help to reallocate and obscure the harms of incarceration. Quantitative testing of hypotheses generated from qualitative data suggest how childhood criminal justice system exposure and cumulative criminal justice system exposure during adulthood each predict later partner violence perpetration via (distinct) behavioral health problems. Results also identify two different classes of partner violence among returning prisoners and their partners—coercive controlling violence and jealous-only situational violence—that are distinguished by accompanying patterns of controlling behavior (consistent with Johnson’s typology). While the types have different proximal precursors and different apparent consequences for victims, both are predicted by the local adversities associated with geographically concentrated incarceration. Built on the insights of partner violence survivors and survivors of mass incarceration, this work advances a new empirical and theoretical understanding of the relationship between penal authority and violence. It also reveals the workings of gender as an instrument of harm transfer in hyper-incarcerated poor communities of color. It argues that the most pervasive form of violence in America deserves focal attention in scholarly conversations about hyper-incarceration and as part of the urgent policy projects of decarceration and reparation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Tasseli McKay
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Cheliotis, Leonidas and Jackson, Jonathan

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics