Reentry into the society of incarcerated people remains one of the most significant challenges facing the criminal justice system, as
Although men in reentry significantly outnumber women, the challenges confronting women returning from incarceration are daunting and complex, indicating a need for specialized and appropriate reentry programming. The difficulties upon release include employment, addiction, mental illness, housing, transportation, family reunification, childcare, parenting, and poor physical health.
Females who commit crimes are also more likely to suffer from co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders, putting them at the highest risk for recidivism and relapse and, thus, most in need of treatment.
Over the years, the number of incarcerated women has increased disproportionately, but programming for their reentry has not increased in comparable measure.
Women reentering society from prison face similar and unique challenges relative to incarcerated males. Compared to men, incarcerated women are more likely to be economically disadvantaged, regular users of drugs, and victims of abuse and mistreatment. They are more likely to suffer from mental illness or co-occurring disorders and to be a parent to a minor child. Historically, however, most reentry interventions have been aimed at incarcerated males. Even risk assessment instruments were designed for males who commit crimes, with little attention to gender-specific factors, making them unsuitable for female offenders.
Gender-responsive programming begins with an assessment of each person’s risks and needs. It considers gender-specific variables particular to incarcerated females, such as parent-child relationships, familial reunification, substance abuse, and mental and physical health needs. In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy, all-female group sessions, and mutual support groups are recommended in programming for women in the criminal justice system.
Like all persons who commit crimes, women require adequate screening and assessment for recidivism risk, criminogenic needs (addressing conditions likely to cause criminal behavior), and responsivity to treatment. However, some research has suggested that risk assessment instruments designed for males who commit crimes may be less valid for women. As a result, several female-specific classification instruments have been developed, such as the Gender Informed Needs Assessment (GINA), the COMPAS for Women, the Service Planning Instrument for Women (SPIn-W), and the Women’s Risk and Needs Assessment (WRNA).
Until recently, no peer-reviewed, published assessments of the GINA, COMPAS for Women, or SPIn-W. The WRNA is the only validated, peer-reviewed risk/needs assessment developed for justice-involved women. Research on female incarceration is critical to understanding mass incarceration’s full consequences and unraveling the policies and practices that lead to their criminalization.
Over the past quarter century, there has been a profound change in the involvement of women within the criminal justice system. This results from more extensive law enforcement efforts, stiffer drug sentencing laws, and post-conviction barriers to reentry that uniquely affect women.
The current policy focus on prisoner reentry or, more broadly, the transition process by which incarcerated individuals are prepared to return to the community from prison and are supported in doing so represents a crossroads in the field of corrections. No longer responsible solely for monitoring and surveillance or for the safety and security of incarcerated individuals, corrections professionals are increasingly being asked to take on the challenge and responsibility of promoting offender success to achieve greater public safety.
At this crossroads are opportunities to rethink traditional policies and practices and how they might impact transition, as well as to think about what different groups of offenders need to succeed. One important group that jurisdictions need to consider in this context is women offenders. The rapidly increasing population of women under correctional supervision and their differences from male offenders in terms of the crimes and pathways that bring them into the system, their risks and needs, and their role in the community from which they’ve come and to which they will return suggest that stakeholders in the transition process need to think differently about how to promote women’s successful reentry.
The population of women offenders is growing and continues to grow faster than the population of men. Many trace the increase to state and national drug policy changes that mandated prison terms for even relatively low-level drug offenses. Nationally, the number of women incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails has jumped eightfold between 1980 and 2002. The female inmate population continues to rise at a faster rate than the male inmate population: from June 30, 2003, to June 30, 2004: the number of women in state and federal prisons increased by 2.9%, while the rate for men rose by 2.0%.
This does not include women under community supervision. For many women, involvement in the criminal justice system has become a revolving door from which they cannot escape, particularly for those who are drug-involved or for whom meeting the obligations of the system (probation or parole conditions, or fees and restitution, for example) becomes an obstacle in itself. Though many corrections authorities have taken a position against differentiating between males and females and make efforts to apply policies and practices universally, research has uncovered significant differences between male and female offender populations that may help shed light on this revolving door.
Increasingly, Reentry managers are realising the differentiation in needs of female offenders upon reentry when compared to male offenders. Reentry programs can greatly benefit from PlanStreet reentry software to fast track client intake, conduct comprehensive needs assessments and design appropriate reentry plans. Schedule an introductory call with us to know all the ways PlanStreet can elevate your program management and help your clients.