Women in Italian prisons account for 4.4% of the total number of inmates nationally (63.3% are Italian; and 29.6% are between 34 and 44 years old). And most come from socially marginalized backgrounds reflected in their crimes ranked here in decreasing order: theft, extortion, and drug trafficking (from Italian National Institute of Statistics, ISTAT, 31 December 2019). Only four of the 190 Italian penitentiaries exclusively house women (Marietti 2019). These data show that female prisoners in Italy are a minority group “swallowed up” by the male inmate population. In order to re- define and re-signify their existence into conditions of dignity and respect, this multidisciplinary study puts female inmates on a pedestal by giving voice to their stories. First-person narratives are not merely simple self-presentations, but express innate needs rooted in the person's personal history, to build a social position that minimizes anguish, loneliness and suffering, and to foster harmonization with the outside world. This study analyses a corpus of narratives written by female inmates taken from the Ristretti Orizzonti (Inmates’ Horizons, www.ristretti.it) portal. Corpus linguistics and lexicon-based sentiment analysis explore the most recurrent words with polarity (⎼/+) attributable to emotions (i.e., Anger, Anticipation, Disgust, Fear, Joy, Sadness, Surprise and Trust) in their context of occurrence to understand their incorporated emotional meaning derived from relationships with other words as a unique act of the mind’s conscious way of being. Analysis of female inmates’ discourse, through opposing their invisibility, sets in motion change in conditions and perceptions of all those connected to the prison environment.
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