MTSU sociology professor presents findings on challenges facing formerly incarcerated women in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Story by Anh Le / Contributing Writer

Meredith Dye, an MTSU assistant professor of sociology, gave a speech about the fears and expectations from women released from long prison sentences in the James Union Building on Thursday.

Dye conducted a long-term research project in three prisons in Georgia. The purpose of the project was to learn about the prisons and the pathways of women in those prisons.

“They are forgotten by society, they are forgotten by their families often times and they are forgotten in terms of research and policy in programming,” Dye said.  

Dye’s research focuses on the expectations and fears of women who have spent at least 15 years in prison.

Dye showed in the presentation that there are 6,700 women serving life sentences in U.S. prisons. Of that number, more than 400 women are serving life sentences in Georgia. Many women are facing a difficult reality when they get out of the prison, including stereotypes, stigmas, lack of support and lack of attention.

Dye explained that the average time served is 21 years, so many women will be much older when they get out. They worry about employment because of aging and health. 75 percent of women in U.S. prisons worry about the parole process for getting out of prison, and 70 percent of the women in U.S. prisons have not had been taught computer skills, according to Dye’s research. There are not enough sources for rehabilitation.

Dye also included a lot of quotes from the women prisoners in the presentation to give more details about life sentences.

“I’m no longer that girl,” said a woman who was young when she came to prison and is now older coming out.

Shelby Ziegler, a fermentation science major at MTSU, came to the event for extra credit in a mass sociology class she is taking.

“I think it is pretty obvious that females are overlooked in the prison system,” Ziegler said. “I didn’t realize how many women are serving time for the same thing and just how impactful and mind-changing that was.”

Ashleigh McKinzie, an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, said that there is another upcoming research series that will be held at MTSU. In this research series, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Rob Layne will have a presentation on “Technologies of Reproductive Genetic Testing for LGBTQ Individuals and Couples” and  “Queer Standpoint Theory” on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018.

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1 Comment

  1. Jackson Bieger
    September 26, 2018

    The idea of life in prison and its effect on prisoners troubles me.

    On one hand, I believe that there is a certain nebulous threshold that, once passed, revokes any and all rights to a life in normal society. On the other, I often can’t help but feel sympathy for them, despite the often heinous nature of their crimes.

    I’m torn between the two notions. In my opinion, a life sentence is even more inhumane punishment than an execution. As this guardian article states ( the prospect of life in prison without parole leaves prisoners as devoid of hope as living out their days on death row. Which one is worse?

    With that said, however, I’m not entirely in support of the argument that some criminals whose crimes have resulted in true life sentences are necessarily candidates for reformation. Who is to say that someone capable of, say, multiple rapes or murders wouldn’t still be capable after a prison sentence?

    I realize that this article concerns female life sentence prisoners. Still, I’m surprised that there is a divide between the experience of hope in male and female prisoners. I am certainly no expert; however, it does strike me as odd that the sentiment expressed in this article would be gender exclusive.