Justice Involved Women

Justice Involved Women - 2019

The number of justice-involved women has skyrocketed -- at rates exceeding men. Their entry into the criminal justice system, offense patterns, and levels of risk often follow a different path than men and require more targeted approaches.

The collection of resources below are intended to provide information on the back ground and current status of justice-involved women in the corrections environment in the United States. For more on this topic, please see our Justice-involved Women Project Page https://nicic.gov/justice-involved-women.

There has been growing acknowledgment among scholars, prison staff, and policy-makers that gender-informed thinking should feed into penal policy but must be implemented holistically if gains are to be made in reducing trauma, saving lives, ensuring emotional wellbeing, and promoting desistance from crime. This means that not only healthcare services and psychology programs must be sensitive to individuals’ trauma histories but that the architecture and design of prisons should also be sympathetic, facilitating, and encouraging trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive practices within.

The WRNA was originally created through a cooperative agreement between the National Institute of Corrections and the University of Cincinnati through research conducted by Patricia Van Voorhis, Emily Salisbury, Emily Wright, and Ashley Bauman. The instrument is now managed by Dr. Emily Salisbury at Utah Criminal Justice Center (UCJC), College of Social Work University of Utah.
The WRNA is a public-domain instrument. However, there are conditions of use, a license agreement, and training costs associated with its implemenation.
This webpage from Utah Criminal Justice Center (UCJC), College of Social Work University of Utah has links to research articles written about the WRNA over the last 13 years.

This report examines the civil rights of women in United States prisons. The population of women in prison has increased dramatically since the 1980s, and this growth has outpaced that of men in prison, yet there have been few national-level studies of the civil rights issues incarcerated women experience.The Commission studied a range of issues that impact incarcerated women, includingdeprivations of women’s medical needs that may violate the constitutional requirement to provide adequate medical care for all prisoners; implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act(PREA); and the sufficiency of programs to meet women’s needs afterrelease.

This report was first published in 2014. Since then, some things have changed for women in solitary confinement—but many things have not. More attention has been placed on women in prison and on solitary confinement in general, but still, little attention has been paid to the specific plight of women in solitary confinement. Although laws, court decisions, and settlement agreements have all limited the use of solitary confinement for certain populations in some jurisdictions, the use of solitary confinement is still rampant in the United States. Vulnerable populations, including pregnant people and women with mental illness, are still being placed into solitary confinement, and not enough is being done to enforce limitations on such placements.

Correcional facilities are challenged to manage the growing popluation of justice involved women. Increasingly, agencies recognize that "one size does not fit all."   Implementing gender-responsive policy, practice, and programming contributes to a more engaged inmate population, reduces disciplinary issues, and contributes positively to reentry planning. Evidence-based practices and population statistics point toward using gender-specific policies for incarcerated women.

While the use of evidence-based practice (EBP) is being used by more and more correctional systems, EBP tend to primarily address the needs of men. Issues specific to females are often overlooked. This void can be filled with gender-specific programming and services. The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) is a reliable resource for information about gender-responsive topics. This article provides a glimpse at the various things NIC offers. Some of these assets are technical assistance, training programs, the Gender-Responsive Bulletin and additional material, and models of practice which can improve operational outcomes.

The series, Reentry TIPSHEETS for Women, is designed to help correctional staff and other supportive stakeholders, who are working with women during the pre-release planning process and during reentry to address their needs as they transition to the community.  The tipsheets are an important resource for staff to use as a component of their ongoing discussions with the woman during her reentry planning process, and as a reminder of discussions and plans that have been identified during her period of incarceration. They are not intended to be handouts merely given to women on their way out the jail or prison door. Of necessity the Reentry TIPSHEETS for Women cover each topic generally and provide links to national resources.

With growing public attention to the problem of mass incarceration, people want to know about women’s experience with incarceration. How many women are held in prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities in the United States? And why are they there? How is their experience different from men’s? While these are important questions, finding those answers requires not only disentangling the country’s decentralized and overlapping criminal justice systems, but also unearthing the frustratingly hard to find and often altogether missing data on gender.

In March 2018, The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition released a report, A Growing Population: The Surge of Women into Texas’ Criminal Justice System, which examines the growing number of women entering Texas’ criminal justice system and offers recommendations for safely reducing this population and helping women thrive in the community.

Over the past three decades, States have enacted legislation making it easier to transfer youth to the adult criminal justice system. Although the process occurs with male and female youth, this document specifically addresses the challenges of transferring girls to adult court and correctional systems. Mechanisms developed to move youth into adult systems include Judicial Waiver/Transfer Laws, Prosecutorial Direct Filing, Statutory Exclusion Provisions, the “Once an Adult, Always an Adult” Provisions and Age of Jurisdiction Laws. When making those transfer decisions, less consideration may be given to the idea that adult jails and prisons are not designed for the confinement of youth, and as a result most are not equipped to meet the inherent and specific needs of adolescents. 

Women account for approximately 7 percent of the federal inmate population. Nationwide, women are a growing correctional population, however in the Bureau of Prisons, women have maintained a steady proportion of the overall population. The Bureau houses women in 29 facilities across the country.

Flanked by fig groves and vineyards and surrounded by electrified fences and thick coils of barbed wire, the Central California Women’s Facility is the largest women only prison in the state. Inside the low-slung cinderblock buildings, in a trailer that doubles as a classroom, a dozen prisoners have gathered around a conference table. They are black, white and Latina; former gang members, preschool teachers, musicians and veterans. They have one thing in common. All these women are serving long-term sentences for committing violent offenses. Many of them are LWoPs—life in prison, without the possibility for parole. They’ve come to this classroom to talk about the beginning of their journeys to prison — which almost invariably began with childhood trauma.

Criminal career patterns, social context and features, psychological factors, potential matches in prior pathways research, sub-types, and treatment goals are provided for the following types of women's pathways to crime: "Type 1 - Quasi-Normal non-violent women with drug/alcohol issues"; "Type 2 - Lifelong Victims, many of whom have abusive partners, drug problems and depression"; "Type 3 - Socialized Subcultural Pathways, poor and marginalized but with low victimization and few mental health problems"; "Type 4 - Aggressive Antisocial, high risk/high need and victimized, mental health issues"; [and] women offenders not classified.

Ex-offenders are subject to a wide range of employment restrictions that limit the ability of individuals with a criminal background to earn a living. This article argues that women involved in the criminal justice system likely suffer a greater income-related burden from criminal conviction than do men. This disproportionate burden arises in occupations that women typically pursue, both through formal pathways, such as restrictions on occupational licensing, and through informal pathways, such as employers’ unwillingness to hire those with a criminal record. In addition, women have access to far fewer vocational programs while incarcerated.

Many researchers and practitioners working with justice-involved women understand the gendered nature of how women end up incarcerated. They also recognize that many (if not most) of the women in these institutions have experienced trauma – either as a child and/or as an adult. Practitioners working with women in jails and prisons also understand that all imprisoned women experience the trauma of incarceration. As a result, advocates, service providers, and others, have created programming for women that is both gender-responsive and trauma-informed. This listing includes resources that give some examples of gender-responsive and trauma-informed programs and curricula for practitioners working with justice-involved women.

The gender-responsive Women Offender Case Management Model (WOCMM) is described. This document covers: the history of the project; philosophy and core practices; process incorporating four core elements (e.g., engage and assess, enhance motivation, implement the case plan, and review progress); preparing for implementation; and evaluation.

As of September 2016, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) incarcerated 10,567 sentenced female inmates, representing 7 percent of the total BOP sentenced inmate population of 146,084. Though female inmates compose a small percentage of the nationwide incarcerated population, correctional officials have recognized that in some areas female and male inmates have different needs and BOP has adopted gender-responsive programs and policies that account for these needs. As a continuation of prior U.S.

The programs on this site are varied in the populations they serve and services provided. This database is intended for correctional stakeholders working across front end decision-making, pre-trial release, jail and prison reentry and covers topical areas such as parenting programs and substance abuse and/or behavioral health. We have found this site to be a resource in correctional case planning, management, and supervision and treatment of women in correctional systems but also as a source of information for those interested in developing programs to serve women.

This database is not an exhaustive listing and we encourage visitors to help us keep the site active by submitting new programs.

Research on women's perpetration of physical violence has focused primarily on partners, often neglecting perpetration against nonpartners. This study proposes a conceptual model with direct and indirect relationships between childhood adversity and different targets of violence (partners and nonpartners), mediated by victimization experiences (by partner and nonpartners), mental illness, substance abuse, and anger. Using survey data from a random sample of incarcerated women (N = 574), structural equation modeling resulted in significant, albeit different, indirect paths from childhood adversity, through victimization, to perpetration of violence against partners (β = .20) and nonpartners (β = .19).

This report examines the civil rights of women in United States prisons. The population of women in prison has increased dramatically since the 1980s, and this growth has outpaced that of men in prison, yet there have been few national-level studies of the civil rights issues incarcerated women experience. The Commission studied a range of issues that impact incarcerated women, including deprivations of women’s medical needs that may violate the constitutional requirement to provide adequate medical care for all prisoners; implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA); and the sufficiency of programs to meet women’s needs after release.

Over 20 years ago, in litigation challenging conditions for women in District of Columbia prisons, a federal district court found widespread violations of the women’s rights, citing unsanitary and otherwise substandard living conditions, inadequate medical care, and educational, recreational, and religious   opportunities that were inferior compared with those available to men housed in the same facilities. The court also found evidence  of  “a level of sexual harassment which is so malicious that it violates contemporary standards of decency,” with reports of rape, “general acceptance of sexual relationships between staff and inmates,” unconsented sexual touching, and degrading remarks.

The argument on behalf of women offenders was made at least four decades ago at the National Conference on Corrections convened by then President Richard Nixon in response to the 1971 Attica Prison riots. Among many speakers, Dr. Edith Flynn delivered the only address on women offenders. In “The Special Problems of Female Prisoners,” Dr. Flynn noted that female prisoners were largely ignored.

Over the past quarter century, there has been a profound change in the involvement of women within the criminal justice system. This is the result of more expansive law enforcement efforts, stiffer drug sentencing laws, and post-conviction barriers to reentry that uniquely affect women. The female incarcerated population stands nearly eight times higher than in 1980. More than 60% of women in state prisons have a child under the age of 18.1)
Between 1980 and 2017, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 750%, rising from a total of 26,378 in 1980 to 225,060 in 2017.