Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Gender-Responsive Policy Development in Corrections: What We Know and Roadmaps for Change

"Correctional policy and procedure drives decisions in the management and rehabilitation of offender populations. The continuously emerging research on female offenders highlights differences from their male counterparts, particularly in the areas of health, mental health, substance abuse and risk. Yet correctional policies rarely reflect those differences and where adaptations are made it is often not in policy or directive, contributing to tremendous inconsistency in the management of women offenders. One of the most common requests received from the women offender initiative at the National Institute of Corrections is assistance in revising policy that is consistent with the department mission but reflects the differences between men and women. This bulletin, based on survey data and focus groups with women, is an initial step to determine the existence of gender-informed policy within correctional agencies. The findings of this bulletin provide an overview of the current state of gender-responsive policies for women and define a focus for future research, training and technical assistance in the effort to create a more effective, and efficient correctional approach for women offenders" (p. 1). Sections of this bulletin include: introduction to the issue of gender-informed correctional policy; what gender-responsive means; methodology; limitations of the study; key findings-while the majority of correctional policies are still gender neutral, 73% of responding jurisdictions have developed some gender-responsive polices for their female offenders involving health care, programming, allowable properties, searches, and restraints; challenges to gender-responsive policy development; recommendations for gender-responsive policy development from the survey respondents; recommendations for becoming more gender-responsive from focus group participants; discussion regarding study results; and conclusion. "Research suggests that justice-involved women have different pathways to crime when compared to men, which result in unique needs. The criminal justice system can address those unique or more frequently occurring needs through further development of gender-responsive policies" (p. 6).