Magazine article Corrections Today

Why Women Offenders?

Magazine article Corrections Today

Why Women Offenders?

Article excerpt

Since women offenders typically comprise only 5 percent to 7 percent of offender populations, correctional planning often is driven by the overwhelming profile of the predominant male population.

Twenty years ago, a small group of correctional planners in Georgia responded to their commissioner's directive to develop a "female offender plan."

"No problem," thought the planners. "We'll just write to all the other states and find out what everyone else is doing." And so began six months of rude awakenings.

Not only was no other state engaged in systems-level planning, correctional colleagues wanted to know, "Why women offenders? Why expend such intensive effort on 4 percent of the offender population? Why plan for women offenders? Do we also plan for male offenders?"

Two decades later, those same questions still form the centerpiece of our national conversation on women offenders. The staggering growth in women offenders in this country has doubled and tripled female offender populations in prisons and community settings. Yet, since women offenders typically comprise only 5 percent to 7 percent of offender populations, correctional planning often is driven by the overwhelming profile of the predominant male population.

For the past two years, the National Institute of Corrections has sponsored a workshop titled "Critical Issues in Managing Women Offenders." Participants are invited to consider the question: "Why is it important to address separately the issues of women offenders?"

Here are some of their observations:

* Women's needs are different from men's. While parity instructs us to provide equal access to programs, different needs require us to tailor those programs accordingly.

* Women offenders represent different challenges in supervision than do men; good operational practice acknowledges that difference. …

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