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Women in prisons

The development of new risk/needs assessments specifically designed for female offenders is discussed. This report is comprised of these sections:

  • The case for women's needs;
  • Development of new assessments;
  • Construction validation research;
  • Full instruments;
  • Implementation considerations;
  • Obtaining the gender-responsive assessments;
  • And conclusion.
Achieving Accurate Pictures of Risk and Identifying Gender Responsive Needs: Two New Assessments for Women Offenders Cover

Findings from a telephone assessment of state and federal practices for classifying women offenders are presented. In addition to an executive summary, this report has the following chapters:

  • Introduction;
  • Issues in classifying women offenders -- the literature;
  • Approach;
  • Findings;
  • And discussion.

Most states still apply a male-based classification system to women.

 

Classification of Women Offenders:  A National Assessment of Current Practices Cover

The development of improved strategies for classifying female offenders is addressed. Sections of this report include:

  • Issues in classifying women offenders -- the literature review;
  • National assessment of current female offender classification practices;
  • Focus groups with corrections professionals and women offenders;
  • Directions for technical assistance (TA);
  • TA -- Hawaii Department of Public Safety;
  • TA -- Nebraska Department of Correctional Services;
  • TA -- Colorado Department of Corrections;
  • And lessons learned -- female offenders can be classified using instruments currently utilized with some adjustments, measures of offender needs offer substantial contributions to the validity of a custody classification system, precise definitions and accurate measurement are important considerations, the cooperative agreement reduced over-classification but did not nullify it, and over-classification is not only found in the classification system.
Classification of Women Offenders:  A National Assessment of Current Practices and the Experiences of Three States Cover

"Because the U.S. is unable to prevent widespread sexual violations of incarcerated women, it should apply the prescriptions of a recent U.K. female prison abolitionist movement as the most effective and humane solution to the problem." This article explains how. It is divided into the following six parts: introduction; victims of U.S. prisons; mass incarceration's offense; the terror of sexual victimization; PREA's [Prison Rape Elimination Act's] failure--the scope of PREA, and the ineffectiveness of PREA and its predecessors; the U.K. abolitionists solution--incarceration in the U.K., early calls for reform, and the Prison Reform Trust proposal; alternatives to the punishment of incarceration; and conclusion.

Commentary: Abandoned: Abolishing Female Prisons to Prevent Sexual Abuse and Herald an End to Incarceration Cover

“In the following, we review the literature relevant to the study of violence and safety in women’s prison. We begin with the demographic and background characteristics of female offenders. The pathways model is then described, which emphasizes the life experiences of women that contribute to criminal behavior. This review will then describe the subcultural elements of women’s prisons that influence vulnerabilities, victimization, and violence. The types and prevalence of violence in women’s prisons, particularly sexual assault, are also summarized. A summary of the National Inmate Survey, a PREA-mandated data collection that measures inmate self-reports is provided. This review then provides a summary of recent research by the authors that examines the context of gendered violence and safety in women’s correctional facilities and results from a project that sought to validate an instrument intended to measure women’s perceptions of safety and violence” (p. 1).

A report which highlights the results of two cooperative agreements from the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) addressing the critical need for gender-specific objective classification systems is presented.  Following an executive summary are six chapters: introduction; classification issues for women offenders--the literature; NIC Prisons Division--women's classification initiatives (e.g., National Assessment of Current Practices for Classifying Women Offenders and Working With Correctional Agencies to Improve Classification for Women Offenders); building blocks to effective classification of women offenders; addressing classification issues that require systemic change; and future steps.  This report also has two appendixes: descriptions of seven states women's classification initiatives (Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, West Virginia, and Wisconsin); and sample initial and reclassification instruments developed by Colorado and Idaho.

Developing Gender-Specific Classification Systems for Women Offenders Cover

This report explains how mothers and their babies can benefit from being held in a prison-based Mother and Baby Unit (MBU). "All available research suggests that the struggles of childbearing women in prison are extremely complex. And whilst their babies represent a relatively small proportion of all children affected by maternal imprisonment, they are arguably the neediest and most vulnerable group. This report documents the findings of a collaborative research project … The project aimed to map current knowledge and research evidence on childbearing women in prison and their babies and to transfer this learning into policy and practice" (p. 5). Findings from this study cover: current provision for childbearing women in prison and their babies; decision-making and unavailability of MBU places; mother and baby relationship during MBU residence; what happens when mothers go to prison and do not secure an MBU place; mother and baby relationship when separation occurs; reentry (resettlement) and reunification issues—Re-Unite being a good practice example; impact of MBU residence on re-offending; the changing landscape of the female prison estate—custodial changes in prison hubs, and community changes; and concerns arising from the research. Some of the recommendations made include: "Effective and tailored alternative sentencing options for mothers of young children need to be available; … The benefits of MBUs need to be actively promoted to external staff, to mothers and also to non MBU prison staff; Mothers in prison need programmes which address self-esteem and healthy relationships; Intensive support packages, with a strong therapeutic focus should be put in place for women who have had their babies adopted, during the mother's prison sentence and continued post-release; … [and] Release from prison needs to be viewed as a process not as an event. The sentence planning of women prisoners who are also mothers needs to include parenting support on release and a 'whole family' approach where appropriate" (p. 5).

Enhancing Care for Childbearing Women and their Babies in Prison cover

Guidance for those individuals "seeking to more effectively respond to the behavior and circumstances of the female offender" is offered (p. iv). An executive summary and the following four chapters comprise this manual: characteristics of women in the criminal justice system -- a descriptive summary; women offenders and criminal justice practice; the context of women's lives -- a multidisciplinary review of research and theory; and a new vision -- guiding principles for a gender-responsive criminal justice system. An appendix provides information regarding legal considerations with regard to women offenders.

Gender Responsive Strategies Cover

"In response to the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), this project . . . examined the context and correlates of both violence and safety in correctional facilities for women" (p. 1). This report is divided into three parts after an abstract and executive summary: Part I, entitled "Gendered Violence and Safety: Improving Security in Women's Facilities," contains the chapters introduction, literature review, gendered violence in women's prisons and jails, and policy implications and recommendations; Part II, entitled "Focus Group Methodology and Findings," covers focus group data collection and methods, individual and relationship factors, community and culture, facility factors, and staff factors; and Part III, entitled "Measuring Gendered Violence and Safety: Research Design and Methods," discusses developing the survey, survey development results for problems in the housing unit violence, policy, and climate, and factors leading to violence; and summary and conclusions.

Gendered Violence and Safety: A Contextual Approach to Improving Security in Women's Facilities Cover

"This Practice Brief focuses on the benefits of establishing healthy social and civic connections through mentoring of criminal justice-involved women" (p. 3). Sections contained in this publication include: issue overview; what mentoring is; mentoring and gender; policy and legislation; the WPA (Women's Prison Association) approach to mentoring women in reentry; other mentoring programs; and challenges in implementing mentoring programs.

Mentoring Women in Reentry Cover

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