Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type

Professional Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Public Service


College of Professional Studies


This study uses research literature and results from a qualitative project to discuss how gender-responsive programming would be beneficial to women offenders, both while incarcerated and upon returning to the community. Research proves that women offenders are different from their male counterparts regarding life factors and pathways to crime. The literature identifies how female criminality is heavily influenced by the life circumstances and experiences of women offenders. Recent studies stress the importance of considering the demographics and history of the female offender population, as well as how life factors impact women’s patterns of offending. Most women in the criminal justice system are poor, undereducated, and unskilled, and they are disproportionately women of color. Many women offenders come from impoverished urban environments, were raised by single mothers, or were in foster-care placement. The profile of the typical adult female offender is presented, as well as gender and cultural challenges that are constantly faced by this population. IMPACT OF GENDER-RESPONSIVE TREATMENT iii Also discussed is the basis of past practices concerning the program design, or lack thereof, for women offenders. Identified is a void that exists from the lack of gender responsive treatment and services available for women offenders. Highlighted is the magnitude of the lack of understanding among most criminal justice professionals regarding the actual need for this level of service. To close the literature review, the current ideology of gender-responsive treatment is discussed to provide insight of its importance in regards to the successful reintegration of female offenders. The findings of this research project identify the importance of knowing and understanding the unique story of women offenders in relation to effective treatment methods. Literature has argued that correctional programming and other community services should address the needs of women; which in turn, would open the door for positive outcomes in terms of reducing recidivism, offer the chance of a better quality of life, and gain greater incentives to avoid the criminal lifestyle.