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Employment and Female Offenders: An Update of the Empirical Research

NCJ Number
Shawn M. Flower, Ph.D.
Date Published
November 2010
24 pages
This paper is a summary of available literature related to employment and women in the criminal justice system.
Female offenders are different from male offenders in many ways. In addition, just as the pathways to and uses of crime differ by gender, desistance from crime is likewise contextualized by the circumstances and situations that women face. One of the key mechanisms for desistance is employment. Studies confirm that it may be more difficult for women to overcome many complex challenges to obtain, and then maintain employment. Women often face a set of circumstances that add additional barriers to employment, particularly if the women are the sole custodial parent for children. The purpose of this paper is to explore the literature and summarize the empirical evidence related to the impact of employment on the criminal behavior of women. The review provides a synopsis of the demographic and criminal history characteristics of women involved in the criminal justice system. Whenever possible, this overview categorizes women in the various stages of criminal justice system (jail, prison, and community supervision). An exploration of the relevant literature focused on the challenges faced by female offenders and how these challenges affect the ability to find and maintain quality employment. Woven throughout the paper, where suitable, are gender-responsive strategies to reduce these barriers to employment. To make it more likely that women will have quality long-term employment, they should have access to (1) correctional education and vocational training, (2) employment assistance programs, (3) opportunities to learn problem-solving and time-management skills, (4) opportunities to engage in a gender-responsive strategies for treatment and case management services, (5) and public capital (childcare, cash assistance, housing, and healthcare). Women who have the opportunity to take advantage of these services and supports are less likely to be involved in criminal activities. References