209472 Using leisure as a coping tool: A feminist study of the recreational experiences of incarcerated women in a Puerto Rican prison

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 2:30 PM

Marizel Dávila, MS , Department of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
Significance of the study

Recreation within the context of correctional facilities can serve as an adjustment strategy and as a means to rehabilitation by providing inmates with tools to manage stress inside and outside of the institution as well as with skills to prepare them to better manage life's demands. However, the impact of leisure in correctional settings and in particular, how participation in recreation helps women to cope with the stress of incarceration has been largely overlooked.


The purpose of this project was to study the impact of recreation participation in the coping and adjustment process of incarcerated women within the cultural context of a women's prison in Puerto Rico.


The study included focus groups and in-depth interviews with 50 inmates. The questions were designed to obtain information about the methods used by the women inmates to cope with incarceration and the role of recreation participation in this process.

Interviews were transcribed and coded.


The results demonstrated that for women, recreation takes many forms within the context of incarceration beyond the formal opportunities of the institution. Recreation participation provides women inmates with positive coping and mental health outcomes (e.g. empowerment, personal improvement).


When cultural aspects are taken into consideration in the development of recreation programming, incarcerated women report positive mental health outcomes (e.g. motivation, higher self- esteem and a sense of responsibility), all of which can help to prepare them to re-entry society upon release from prison.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the potential role of recreation participation in the coping process of women in prison; and 2. Identify ways in which recreation participation provides incarcerated women with positive mental health outcomes.

Keywords: Prison, Coping

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the primary author of this research study which is part of my doctoral dissertation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.