Correctional interventions for women offenders: a rapid evidence assessment

Publication Date21 September 2015
Date21 September 2015
AuthorLynn Stewart,Renée Gobeil
SubjectHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology
Correctional interventions for women
offenders: a rapid evidence assessment
Lynn Stewart and Renée Gobeil
Dr Lynn Stewart is Consultant
based at Toronto, Canada.
Dr Renée Gobeil is Adjunct
Professor at the Carleton
University, Ottawa, Canada.
Purpose A Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) determined the effectiveness of correctional programmes
for women offenders and examined features of programmes providing the strongest outcomes. Thepaper
aims to discuss these issues.
Design/methodology/approach Electronic databases and web sites were reviewed to identify literature
focused on interventions with female offenders published since 2006, the end point of the last REA
conducted in the area. The following retention criteria were applied: participants were over age 18; sample
included women and results are reported separately for women; study included an appropriate comparison
group; study included recidivism as an outcome measure. Studiesmethodological design quality was
assessed using the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale.
Findings In total, one meta-analysis and 22 studies reflecting 17 unique samples, published from 2006 to
December 2014, were identified. Overall, the best evidence suggests that the following programmes
and approaches have an evidence base: first, substance abuse treatment, in particular in-custody or
hierarchical therapeutic community programmes; second, gender-responsive programmes that emphasize
existing strengths and competencies, as well as skills acquisition; and third, following in-custody programme
treatment with participation in community follow-up sessions. There is also promising evidence for the use of
community opioid maintenance among heroin addicted women.
Originality/value This review demonstrated that since 2006 the number of high-quality research studies
assessing womens correctional outcomes has grown considerably. The results provide guidance to
programme designers and administrators on programmes for women offenders likely to be effective in
promoting public safety goals and offender reintegration.
Keywords Treatment, Evidence-based practice, Correctional interventions, Correctional outcomes,
Gender-responsive programmes, Women offenders
Paper type Literature review
There is a now an established literature on the effectiveness of correctional programmes in
reducing rates of reoffending for male offenders (Lipsey and Cullen, 2007; Losel, 1995; McGuire,
2001). In particular, the treatment effects are stronger for programmes that adhere to the
risk-need-responsivity principles specified in the effective correctional literature (Dowden and
Andrews, 1999; Hanson et al., 2009; Lowenkamp et al., 2006). To a lesser extent, research is
also accumulating supporting the effectiveness of correctional interventions for women
(Blanchette and Brown, 2006; Dowden and Andrews, 1999; Tripodi et al., 2011; Worrall and
Gelsthorpe, 2009). An emerging body of research is indicating that programmes that are
gender-informed or gender-responsive, that is, take into account the differences in
characteristics and life experiences of women and men, and adjust practices in ways that
appropriately respond to those conditions (Bloom et al., 2006), can be more effective than
gender-neutral approaches, at least for young women with gendered pathways to crime
Received 23 April 2015
Revised 23 April 2015
Accepted 28 May 2015
This research was completed
under contract to the National
Offender Management System in
the Ministry of Justice. The views
and opinions expressed in this
paper are those of the authors and
do not necessarily reflect the
policies and perspectives of the
Ministry of Justice.
VOL. 1 NO. 3 2015, pp. 116-130, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 2056-3841 DOI 10.1108/JCRPP-04-2015-0007

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