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Mental Health Needs of Women Offenders: Needs Analysis for the Development of the Intensive Interventive Strategy

NCJ Number
Forum on Corrections Research Volume: 14 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2002 Pages: 32-35
Donna McDonagh; Christine Noel; Cherami Wichmann
Date Published
May 2002
4 pages
This article discusses a needs assessment of federally sentenced women.
A needs analysis was conducted to obtain information regarding the mental health, living skills, and security needs of federally sentenced women, as well as treatment and programming needs. The criteria included maximum-security classifications, severe mental health concerns, and/or significant problems with daily living. Questionnaires were sent to all institutions housing Federal women inmates and completed by staff. Data were analyzed using a coding guide. The majority of women had one form of serious mental illness, personality disorder, and/or cognitive difficulties. Almost half had more than one of these needs identified. The majority of women were identified as having a significant substance abuse problem. Of those with a substance abuse problem, there was 70 percent co-occurrence with a psychiatric diagnosis. Almost half the women were identified as at risk for suicide. Staff identified the majority of the women as having difficulties in interpersonal skills, such as creating conflict, and antisocial and impulsive behaviors. Three-quarters of the women were identified as experiencing difficulties in activities associated with daily-living, including problem solving, self-care, and organizing steps in completing a task. The most frequently identified treatment needs were psychological, treating deficits in skills/coping abilities, psychiatric treatment needs, substance abuse treatment, and anger management. Among the most frequently identified training areas were Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), mental health awareness, and crisis intervention. Specialized housing environments are needed to accommodate women within regional facilities. The two primary treatment models being implemented are DBT, to address emotion, behavior, and interpersonal needs; and Psychosocial Rehabilitation, to address daily-living and coping skills needs. 2 figures, 1 table, 14 notes