The Road to Recovery: A Gender-Responsive Program for Convicted DUI 'Females. (Feature)

Article excerpt

Like many correctional systems, the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has experienced significant growth in the female inmate population. Of the nearly 29,000 inmates committed to ADC, more than 2,200 are females. The general profile of ADC's female inmates shows that many have been victims of some form of physical or sexual abuse or domestic violence; most are mothers with an average of two children; many are unemployed at the time of arrest; and more than 80 percent have a substance abuse problem.

Because of these unique characteristics, ADC recognized the need to examine its policies and practices regarding female inmates. This brought about a systemwide mission change that called for the relocation of female inmates to a single complex dedicated to housing only women. All female inmates, except those housed at the 160-bed Southern Arizona Correctional Release Center in Tucson, are housed at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville (ASPC-PV), approximately 30 miles west of Phoenix.

Creating gender-responsive programming is a critical part of ADC's goals. Recent changes in Arizona's driving under the influence (DUD laws placed special focus on females convicted of DUI. Until recently, only males convicted of DUI had dedicated housing and programming. A comparison between the number of female inmates convicted of DUI violations in 1995 (51) and 2001 (119) revealed a 133 percent increase versus a 16 percent increase for male inmates during the same period. ADC needed to create a specialized DUI treatment program for women; ASPC-PV's Santa Maria Unit was designated to house these female inmates. As of April, the number of convicted DUI female inmates had reached 150 this year.

In summer 2001, ADC released a request for proposal (RFP) to obtain a provider that could deliver a gender-responsive program for convicted DUL female inmates. The RFP called for a DUI education and treatment program with aftercare/relapse prevention planning. A contract was awarded to Treatment Assessment Screening Center (TASC) of Arizona, a private, nonprofit behavioral health outpatient treatment agency. TASC is a nationally recognized innovator in working collaboratively with the criminal justice system in developing and implementing behavioral health treatment programs.

In January, the Road to Recovery, a licensed, gender-responsive alcohol and other drug abuse/dependence education and treatment program for adult female DUI inmates was implemented. The program's primary goal is to provide programming that addresses the unique needs of women and enables participants to understand their addiction and assist them with their recovery.

Gender-Responsive Programming

The literature on gender-responsive approaches identifies differences between men and women and divides them into two categories: sex differences and gender differences (Belknap, 2001). Sex differences are biological differences, including body size, reproductive organs, muscle development and hormones. Gender differences are ascribed by society and relate to expected social roles. When providing treatment and case management services to females it is important to understand the differences between sex and gender (the latter is about the reality of women's lives and the context in which they live).

If substance abuse treatment programs are to be effective, they must meet women's unique needs. Behavioral health professionals can understand their female clients better if viewed from a holistic biopsychosocial paradigm, which includes behavioral, cognitive, spiritual and emotional components. Women need connection and by incorporating gender-appropriate elements into treatment and case management, it can be achieved.

During the many years of providing services to criminal justice-involved clients, TASC has recognized and acknowledged the differences between men and women and incorporated unique approaches to each population. …