Gossip in a Maximum Security Female Prison: An Exploratory Study

Tomer Einat, Gila Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This research examines 2 issues that have been overlooked by previous research on the subculture of female inmates: the social functions of gossip in a maximum security female prison and the inmates' motivations and attitudes toward gossip and gossipers. The inmates of Israel's female prison perceive gossip as a negative phenomenon. Although they claim that gossip is frequent and central in their prison lives, most deny gossiping themselves. The inmates give several explanations for gossip. They see gossip as an inherent part of "female nature" and claim that gossip is used to increase one's social or material status. They also argue that gossip is an act of envy or an expression of useless evilness. Nonetheless, this study proposes that the inmates use gossip to relieve various pains of imprisonments and that despite the inmates' negative attitudes, gossip may serve other beneficial social purposes of which the inmates are unaware. Although complex and occasionally contradictory, the findings of this study emphasize the multiple positive and negative functions that gossip has in the prison lives of female inmates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-134
Number of pages27
JournalWomen and Criminal Justice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • gossip
  • inmates
  • women


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