Rehabilitation and Reentry
A Gender Specific Focus
There has been a growing trend related to the number of women involved in the United States correctional system. Since 1980 the rate of incarceration for women has nearly doubled (Bureau of Justice Statistics) and compared to male offenders, female offenders are less likely to commit violent crimes. Although, the majority of crimes committed by women are non-violent, at present female offenders make up less than 10 percent of the total number of individuals incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails (see attachment 3). Additionally, pathways to crime, offense patterns, and needs prior to and during incarceration, vary significantly from that of male offenders (Chesney-Lind, 100-102). Furthermore, because of these differences, rehabilitation and reentry programs should be tailored to fit the unique needs of women in prisons and jails:
Women offenders have needs different from those of men, stemming in part from their disproportionate victimization from sexual or physical abuse and their responsibility for children. They are also more likely to be addicted to drugs and to have mental illnesses. (Women Offenders: Programming Needs and Promising Approaches, National Institute of Justice).
It should be further noted, that the benefit of developing gender specific programs would not only increase the chances of successful reentry but it would also decrease the number of women who would otherwise return to prison (Garcia & Ritter, 2012). In December 2010 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Bangkok Rules. These 70 Rules provide direction to policy makers, legislators and prison administrators in order to prevent needless incarceration of women and guides them in addressing the specific and unique needs of women in jails and prisons. Bangkok Rules 40 and 41, Classification and individualization, provide that prison administrators develop and implement classification methods which address gender specific needs (Bangkok Rules, 77-78). For example, women who suffer from mental health issues would not be placed in restrictive housing units; rather they would receive appropriate treatment in less restrictive settings. Bangkok Rule 42 deals with access to balanced programs, individualized support for pregnant and nursing mothers and psychosocial needs, especially for those who have been physically, mentally or sexually abused (Bangkok Rules, 79). Next, having consistent access to family members during incarceration helps with mental well-being and social reintegration which is referenced in Rules 43 and 44. Lastly, Bangkok Rules 45 through 47 provide options for women which include but are not limited to participation in work release programs, access to halfway houses and community based programs; and collaboration with social service agencies and additional post release support to women.
Despite the creation of the U.N. Bangkok rules, studies have found that the United States corrections based rehabilitation programs have not been systematically evaluated and most women report not having academic or job related skills or experience to support themselves after they are released (Richie, 377). Furthermore, at classification and intake prison officials have failed to respond to women’s individual and unique needs, strengths and challenges as they relate to successful placement in prison programs. According to the Transition from Prison to the Community (TPC) model, the process of reentry begins at time of admission and continues through to release. Unfortunately forty states in the U.S. are specifically safety and security focused and uses the same manner of classification for women as they do for men (National Institute of Corrections, June 2010). Furthermore, most prison staff are trained in security and safety only and are lacking in the area of rehabilitation and reentry. Why is this an issue? Studies