The Dynamics of Drug Trafficking/ Smuggling by Female Offenders in the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service: An Exploratory Mixed-Methods Approach

Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology & Criminal Justice


Applied Sociology

Committee Director

Elizabeth Monk-Turner

Committee Member

Randy Gainey

Committee Member

Ingrid Whitaker

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.S62 E45 2011


Female offenders incarcerated for the crime of drug trafficking/smuggling have received little research attention. This thesis is an exploratory study designed to help fill that gap. As such, the study is primarily focused on women involved in the illicit drug economy via their participation in drug trafficking/ smuggling activities and secondarily focused on the general population of females incarcerated/remanded for various other crimes. Within the relevant body of research the term "trafficking" is loosely utilized (Fleetwood 2009). Thus to provide clarity, in this research project the terms "trafficking" and "smuggling" are used interchangeably and specifically reference the act of international import and export of drugs (2009). This research, which was conducted at the women's facility in Arouca, Trinidad at the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service (TIPS), analyzed relevant experiences of females incarcerated/remanded by addressing three central questions: What are the main factors that influenced the female offender's decision to engage in drug trafficking/ smuggling activities?, How was the female offender recruited to become a drug smuggler/trafficker?, At what point did the female offender become involved with drug trafficking/ smuggling activities? These core research questions were addressed by conducting in-depth semi-structured interviews with (13) thirteen participants and administering a survey instrument to the broader population of inmates in the Women's Prison. This research, which explored the relevant aspects of the women's lives as well as the incidents leading up to their initiation into drug smuggling, was achieved by probing both general and specific past experiences via questions pertaining to women's educational and criminal history, abuse and other criminogenic factors. Ultimately, the in-depth interview analysis provides a framework for understanding the female drug smugglers of TIPS and offers some preliminary insight into this neglected area. Interview and survey data indicate that many women were tricked or became involved in drug trafficking via false pretense. Furthermore, all females in this study functioned on the lower levels of this illicit industry, having little information regarding higher level operations. This suggests that a more in-depth qualitative study should be conducted in order to collect more detailed information from larger samples of women from various prison facilities in the Caribbean, United Kingdom, Canada and elsewhere. Overall this research produced three major findings which covered women's Motivation, Recruitment and Involvement. These findings suggest that women were not simply motivated by monetary gain, women traffickers made the autonomous decision, were lured, and were tricked into drug trafficking via their personal relationships with men.


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