Training Staff Who Supervise Female Offenders

By Brooks, Tonya M. | Corrections Today, August 2007 | Go to article overview

Training Staff Who Supervise Female Offenders


Brooks, Tonya M., Corrections Today


From the opening of the first women's correctional facility in Indiana in 1873 to the present, the vision of supervising female offenders has evolved. Yet, the goals of corrections have remained the same--deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation and retribution. Whether these goals might affect male and female offenders differently is rarely discussed. In fact, the gender-based differences between the offenders often are not at the forefront of correctional issues. However, research indicates that they should be.

Gender Differences

Statistics reveal the first set of differences between the two groups of offenders. According the 1999 U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics report Women Offenders, there are nearly 2.1 million female offenders incarcerated annually. A 2006 BJS report cited that from 1995 to 2005, the total number of female prisoners grew 57 percent, compared to 34 percent for male offenders. (1) These female offenders are more likely to be serving time for property offenses and drug offenses than male offenders. The second set of differences is based on life experiences. Many correctional facilities have indicated the factors that are more pertinent to female offenders are trauma and abuse, self-esteem and assertiveness, medical and mental health care, and parenting and child care. (2)

To address these factors, many institutions develop programs focused on habilitation and rehabilitation that target the specific needs of women. They offer parenting and family transitional programs and address the transition of female offenders who have committed minor offenses to lower custody levels, such as community facilities. (3) Understanding the personal and criminal behaviors of female offenders is important not only to policy and program development but also to custody and supervision.

Gender-Specific Training

ACA has taken the initiative to work closely with correctional staff to develop a comprehensive training program that addresses the critical issues involved in supervising female offenders. The association teamed with correctional experts, in areas such as gender-responsive programming, mental health and abuse/domestic violence, to design customized online courses that will help correctional staff supervise female offenders.

This series of courses, launched by ACA's Online Corrections Academy (OCA) is titled "Supervising Women Offenders in Correctional Institutions." The series has four courses that are specifically designed for correctional officers who work in jails and prisons on the federal, state and local levels. The courses also are applicable to correctional supervisors and managers who want a basic review of the subject. The four courses are:

WOM206: Understanding Women Offenders. Since 1995, the number of female offenders in prisons and jails has increased faster than the number of male offenders. The goal of this course is to help correctional staff learn about the female offender population and how these offenders create different challenges than male offenders. …

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