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Predicting the Prison Misconducts of Women Offenders: The Importance of Gender-Responsive Needs

NCJ Number
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice Volume: 23 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2007 Pages: 310-340
Emily M. Wright; Emily J. Salisbury; Patricia Van Voorhis
Date Published
November 2007
31 pages
This study examined the role that gender-responsive needs play in women’s adjustment to prison.
Results suggest that gender-responsive needs are predictive of institutional misconducts in prison; these gender-responsive needs performed as well as, and in some instances slightly better, than gender-neutral needs when predicting institutional misbehavior. In particular, childhood abuse, unsupportive relationships, experiencing anxiety or depression, and psychosis were highly related to the likelihood that a woman might incur institutional misconducts within 6 and 12 months of incarceration. Gender-responsive risk assessment instruments are best used in treatment-intensive settings, including regional, community-based correctional centers focused on wrap-around services and facilities where inmate transition is a priority. States that reserve some facilities for intensive programming and others for more limited approaches to low-risk offenders might also benefit from these systems because the assessments also differentiate between high-need and low-need inmates. The nature of the risk factors observed in this research might also suggest that prisons potentially need to re-evaluate policies and conditions that aggravate trouble inmates. Trauma-informed policies, family reunification, improved mental health services, and enhanced staff skills for managing women offenders all appear to be warranted. Data collection and analyses were funded by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC). The sample consisted of 272 newly admitted women offenders to the Missouri Department of Corrections from February 2004 through July 2004. Followup data describing the incidence and prevalence of prison misconduct were obtained between August 2004 and July 2005. Notes, references