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Implementing a Gender Responsive Approach to Women in Parole Decision Making: A Self-Assessment

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2019
12 pages
The purpose of this "self-assessment" tool is to assist paroling authorities in determining their current level of "gender responsiveness" in parole decisionmaking to guide improvements.
This self-assessment is needed because correctional policies have traditionally been designed to manage a predominantly male correctional population without modification for women. Although such policies, when evidence-based, have been effective in reducing recidivism for both men and women, a significant body of research specific to women has found the "gender responsive" and trauma-informed approaches improve parole outcomes for women. This indicates that the risks and needs of women offenders differ from male offenders. The self-assessment tool assists parole authorities in understanding women's pathways into criminal justice. Research indicates that many justice-involved women experience some kind of physical or sexual abuse in their life, with some studies noting rates of trauma histories as high as 98 percent. Women's behaviors while incarcerated or on parole supervision may be a learned and internalized reaction to that past or current trauma. Also, paroling authorities must recognize that women are highly motivated and driven by relationships, unlike their male counterparts, and this has implications for both their entry into and desistance from criminal behavior. The self-assessment focuses on the parole interview, training and education for parole boards on gender responsiveness, risk and needs assessment, terms and conditions of supervision, and collecting gender-specific data.