Whose higher power? Criminalized women confront the "Twelve steps"

Susan Sered, Maureen Norton-Hawk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Drawing on 3 years of fieldwork with a community of criminalized women in eastern Massachusetts, this article explores their ambivalent, often negative, relationship with and feelings about Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous (AA/NA). We suggest that coerced participation in AA/NA undermines any potential value that these programs may have for other types of participants and that the Twelve Step ideology of personal responsibility and turning oneself over to a Higher Power fails to resonate for women who are homeless, poor, incarcerated, abused, and have had their children taken from them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-332
Number of pages25
JournalFeminist Criminology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This article was funded from Suffolk University through a Summer Stipend.


  • ethnographic research
  • reentry from prison to community
  • religion
  • social constructions of female deviance
  • women


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