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Female offenders

“This document reviews ten truths about justice involved women—gleaned from the research over the last few decades —that must be recognized if we are to successfully manage this population, achieve greater reductions in recidivism, and improve public safety outcomes. It is our hope that by understanding these truths, criminal justice policymakers and practitioners will be more aware of gender differences and take steps to enhance their approaches to managing justice involved women” (p. iii). Some of these truths are: women are a fast-growing criminal justice population, yet they pose a lower public safety risk than men; traditional criminal justice policies and practices have largely been developed through the lens of managing men, not women; gender responsive assessment tools can enhance case management efforts with justice involved women; women are more likely to respond favorably when criminal justice staff adhere to evidence-based, gender responsive principles; and the costs of overly involving women in the criminal justice system are high.

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“Scholars are beginning to analyze the relative contributions of changes in crime rates, criminal justice policies, economics, and demographics to the slowing growth rate of the prison system, but one area that has gone largely unexplored is the impact of such changes on racial disparities in imprisonment. As is well known, black/white disparities in the use of incarceration have been profound for quite some time. Since the 1980s a series of analyses have documented these trends at the national level as well as examining variation in disparity among the states. As prison populations fluctuate, though, the relative rate of incarceration among racial groups may or may not reflect prevailing patterns. Further, as the prospect of a declining prison population has now become a distinct possibility for the next decade, it will become increasingly important to monitor whether reduced incarceration is experienced in similar ways across racial/ethnic groups” (p. 1). This report is an initial look at whether this trend of decreasing prison populations is reflected in the numbers of minority women being incarcerated. Sections of this report cover: slowing growth in incarceration; race and gender disparity in incarceration; changing racial composition of women’s incarceration—analyzing changes, changes in offending, prison population by offense, and changing socioeconomics; conclusion; and recommendations to address racial disparities.

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This report sheds more light on women in the era of mass incarceration by tracking prison population trends since 1978 for all 50 states. The analysis identifies places where recent reforms appear to have had a disparate effect on women, and offers states recommendations to reverse mass incarceration for women alongside men.

Current research about women offenders and strategies for evaluating current operating procedures related to women offenders are covered. Sections of this bulletin include: introduction; women in jail -- their numbers and characteristics; the Gender-Responsive Strategies project -- approach and findings; six gender-responsive guiding principles -- implications for jail administrators; jail classification and gender-responsive strategies for implementation in a jail setting; challenges and how to overcome them; parity and equity in programming; next steps; improving jail operations -- how jail administrators benefit from considering gender-responsive strategies; Maximizing Opportunities for Mothers to Succeed (MOMS): Alameda County Sheriff's Office, Oakland, California; and conclusion.

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"This report exposes the ways in which we criminalize girls — especially girls of color — who have been sexually and physically abused, and it offers policy recommendations to dismantle the abuse to prison pipeline. It illustrates the pipeline with examples, including the detention of girls who are victims of sex trafficking, girls who run away or become truant because of abuse they experience, and girls who cross into juvenile justice from the child welfare system. By illuminating both the problem and potential solutions, we hope to make the first step toward ending the cycle of victimization-to-imprisonment for marginalized girls" (p. 5). This report is comprised of two primary sections. Girls' Paths of Sexual Abuse into the Juvenile Justice System: the proportion of girls, especially girls of color, in the juvenile justice system in increasing; girls in the juvenile justice system are disproportionately victims of sexual violence; girls’ behavioral reaction to sexual abuse and trauma is criminalized, reinforcing the sexual abuse to prison pipeline; the juvenile justice system typically fails to address, and often exacerbates, trauma that caused girls to be there; lived experience of the sexual abuse to prison pipeline--victims of sex trafficking jailed as offenders; lived experience of the sexual abuse to prison pipeline-- detention of girls who are status offenders; and in focus--dual-system youth and the sexual abuse to prison pipeline. Child Welfare and the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline Identifying and Treating Trauma in the Child Welfare System.

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This study involved an assessment of the relevance of women’s background characteristics for predicting their offending in prison. Data were collected from over 650 women confined in a large prison for women in a Midwestern state, and the relative effects of these factors were examined. Findings revealed that background characteristics reflecting social demographics (e.g. race, sexual orientation) and  women’s life experiences (e.g. abuse as achild) were relevant for predicting women’s violent and nonviolent misbehavior in prison.

This report attempts to discover how the children involved in the Volunteers of America (VOA) initiative Look Up and Hope (LUH) feel while their mother has been incarcerated. It sheds a light on the experiences of this special population of children and offers a way other jurisdictions can approach helping these kids. Sections of this publication include: background and purpose—the growing family problem of incarcerated mothers, and the creation of the LUH program; key findings—children with mothers in prison frequently experience great loss (i.e., homes, friends, and emotional support systems), they usually find strength and stability from those caregivers they love especially grandmothers, and children and families depend on their VOA family coaches or case managers; and conclusions and next steps.

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Issue contents are: “Foreword” by Kermit Humphries; “An Overview of NIC’s Transition from Prison to the Community Initiative” by Peggy B. Burke; “Rising to the Challenge of Applying Evidence-Based Practices Across the Spectrum of a State Parole Board” by Sherry Tate and Catherine C. McVey; “Collaboration and Partnership in the Community: Advancing the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative” by Le’Ann Duran; “Providing Tools for Risk Reduction Case Management in Parole and Community Corrections” by Keven Pellant and Margie Phelps; “Improving Parole Outcomes with Performance Leadership and Data: Doing What Works” by Danny Hunter, George Braucht, and John Prevost; “Working Together to Improve Reentry: Bridging Budgets and Programs, Public and Private, Prison and the Community” by Ginger Martin; “Ensuring Successful Offender Reentry: Umatilla/Morrow County “Reach-In” Services” by Mark Royal; “Creating Better Transitions at Indiana’s Plainfield Reentry Educational Facility” by Michael Lloyd; “Gender-Responsive Reentry in Rhode Island: A Long and Winding Road” by Bree Derrick; and “Missouri Makes Its Move Toward a New Reentry Philosophy” by Julie Boehm.

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"This training curriculum, together with the UNODC Handbook on Women and Imprisonment, aims to assist legislators, policymakers, prison managers, staff and non-governmental organizations to acquire knowledge and skills to address the gender-specific needs of women prisoners and to explore and utilize ways to reduce their unnecessary imprisonment, in line with the provisions of the Bangkok Rules" (p. 9). The twelve modules comprising this training program are: identifying the needs of women prisoners and addressing discrimination; admission, registration, and allocation; health care; safety and security; contact with the outside world; prisoner rehabilitation; pregnant women and women with children in prison; special categories of women prisoners; preparation for release and post-release support; staff working with women prisoners; research, planning, and evaluation; and non-custodial measures. Appendixes cover: handout materials for participants; test questions and answers; training of trainers—background material; background on mental health and related issues in prisons; and End-of-Workshop Evaluation.

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The impact of trauma on girls involved in the juvenile justice system is examined. Sections of this fact sheet cover: why there are increasing numbers of girls in the juvenile justice system; prevalence of trauma-exposure among justice-involved girls; prevalence of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) among justice-involved girls; potential consequences of trauma for girls; impact of the juvenile justice system on traumatized girls; and gender-responsive programming. This review suggests that trauma-informed and gender-responsive programming and intervention models are needed in order to address girls’ needs and to prevent retraumatization of girls in the juvenile justice system. Experiences of trauma, maltreatment, and victimization play a role in placing many girls on the pathway toward delinquency. Further, girls who participate in delinquent activities are at risk for retraumatization and the additional long-term consequences associated with polyvictimization (p. 8).

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