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NIC’s Justice Involved Women’s Initiative
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National Reentry Week April 24-30, 2016

NIC’s work over the years with justice involved women incorporates evidence based, gender informed research that continues to emerge in several critical areas. The emergence of evidence based practices was a turning point in correctional work, but the addition of gender-informed research and knowledge from that body of work directs us to sharpen our practices with women. Two earlier and significant initiatives built the foundation for NIC’s gender responsive work. The findings  from them continue to inform the gender responsive products that NIC makes publicly available. They are:

1) Gender Responsive Strategies: Research, Practice, and Guiding Principles for Women Offenders- This study and resulting document identified six principles that remain the cornerstone of working with women.

2) Women’s Risk and Need Assessment (WRNA)--A series of tools developed from extensive construction and validation research conducted entirely with samples of women over a number of years.

These tools - developed for use in pretrial, prison, pre-release and community supervision settings - are currently in place or in the process of implementation in numerous state and local agencies across the country.

nic-logo-color-300dpiWhile women represent a smaller overall correctional population than men, the rates at which women are coming into jail, prison and probation, exceeds that of men. (BJS, December, 2014). Systems are not prepared to manage and meet the needs of the increased numbers of women entering our systems, and staff may be unprepared to work with the challenges presented by women. The perception that women are difficult to work with is directly related to a couple of significant factors: 1) correctional policy and practice are generally developed with the larger populations in mind (men) and applied to women; and 2) women’s risk and needs may differ from men’s. The belief that what works for men is equally applicable to women does not hold up to the unique issues that women experience (reproductive health issues), or to the experiences that may be common to both men and women, but occur with increased frequency and duration (sexual and physical abuse that begins in childhood and continues into adulthood) for women. Systems that adopt gender responsive practices see positive improvements in women with regard to program participation, reductions in disciplinary issues, connections to community supports, and reduced recidivism. These improvements benefit correctional organizations, justice involved women, and their communities.

Much of NIC’s gender-responsive work supports the concept that ‘reentry begins upon admission’. We know that women who have been the primary parent and caretaker for children and other family members have additional burdens that must figure into her reentry planning as well as into the community supervision and case management practices if a woman is to be successful. Correctional professionals do not generally take into account that a woman may have parental responsibilities, as well as, all of the requirements imposed by courts, parole boards, supervising agents or officers.  As a mother she must ensure that her children are fed, clothed, are in safe housing free from violence and substance abuse, and attend school. Plus when she is attending meetings or appointments, she must ensure that her children are being cared for by a responsible party.

NIC’s Justice Involved Women’s initiative partners with a number of Federal agencies, non-profits, academia and various other stakeholders to ensure that the issues which are critical in managing women and supporting them in their reentry process reflect the most current research and knowledge. This has been achieved by building collaborative relationships with working groups that focus on women’s issues. Two such groups are the Women and Trauma Federal Partners Committee and the Federal Interagency Reentry Council. These groups have produced documents  with an emphasis on the challenges that women face upon reentry. Another NIC partner, The Interagency Reentry Council funded by the Department of Labor, is releasing a series of Tipsheets for Reentering Women.

Across NIC's divisions, training programs, models of practice, documents, and even technical assistance emphasize the importance of properly assessing women’s risk and needs. Engaging the individual as part of her reentry planning and utilizing resources that are relevant to the “realities of women’s lives” is key. (Covington, S. Women and Addiction: A Trauma-Informed Approach, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs Nov. 2008). The factors that have emerged for women such as trauma, safe housing, relationships, parental responsibilities, are critical to a woman’s successful reentry.

Below are examples of NIC’s gender responsive programs and models of practice. These are available to the field, so you may integrate reentry as a core component in case management and supervision.

Models of Practice

The Gender Informed Practices Assessment (GIPA) is designed to facilitate the development of sound-gender responsive and evidence based policy and practices to improve safety and security of operations, staff, justice involved women, reduce recidivism, improve women’s outcomes and increase the likelihood of successful transition. Two sites that have most recently been trained in the implementation of the GIPA are the Illinois Dept. of Corrections and New York Dept. of Correctional Services. Materials and power point presentations are available.

Gender Responsive Policy and Practice Assessment (GRPPA) – is designed to guide an internal agency assessment of gaps and opportunities in developing, implementing and sustaining gender responsive strategies. The most recent example of implementation of the GRPPA is the San Diego County Sheriff’s Dept. in California. The GRPPA is downloadable with detailed instructions and scoring materials from the NIC website.

Collaborative Casework with Women (CCW-W) is an intensive, individualized case work process for justice-involved women with multiple and complex needs. During the case work process an emphasis is placed on assisting her to mobilize existing strengths, build new skills and, to connect with resources that provide advocacy, awareness, treatment, and any other relevant services. Reentry is a strong component of this model and the most significant issues identified for women when transitioning from prison included housing, medical and mental health services. One of the most recent sites implementing the CCW-W is Alameda County, California. National webinars have been conducted on this model and are available.

Training Programs

Three Gender Responsive training programs: 1) Effective Operations and Management of Women’s Prisons; 2) Developing an Agency Wide Approach; and 3) Safety Matters: Relationships in Women’s Facilities all emphasize that release planning begin at point of intake to facilitate the reentry process. Integrated into each of these programs is the foundational gender responsive research and to varying degrees within each offering a comprehensive pre-release strategy. This strategy, in collaboration with community services and related stakeholders, targets those issues that can help support a woman’s successful reentry. While the target audiences of each training event may differ, reentry is presented as a critical component to leadership in the development of policy, practice and program development through line staff who worked directly with justice involved women in various correctional settings.

Much of NIC’s work with women can be found on our website nicic.gov/womenoffenders or in a brochure providing an overview of Gender-Responsive Services. The goal of NIC’s work with justice involved women is to provide leadership and guidance across the corrections continuum nationally to improve systemic and individual outcomes in our work with women, with the ultimate goal of risk reduction and reduced recidivism.

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This announcement is available at NIC’s Gender-Responsive News for Women and Girls.  Feel free to forward to friends and colleagues.  Subscribe to the newsletter at http://nicic.gov/go/subscribe.

For additional resources on Justice-Involved Women go to NIC’s Women Offenders.




Posted Tue, Apr 26 2016 7:54 AM by Susan Powell
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This blog is funded by a contract from the National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions stated in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.