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Mental Illness in Female Offenders Essay

Mental Illness in Female Offenders Essay

Before 1990, women were a blip on the radar of criminality compared to men (Wright et al., 2012). All services and amenities available to inmates in the prison system were established with men in mind. As more women were incarcerated, correctional facilities began making provisions for women regarding programs and service opportunities because what was available did not correctly address women’s criminality (Wright et al., 2012). Mental health programs have been established to provide therapeutic programming to specifically address physical and substance abuse and victimization that women have experienced, which were the catalysts that led many of them to commit crimes (Christenson, 2009). The purpose of this paper is to determine why studies indicate there is a higher level of mental illness in female offenders, including what factors are most significant in the higher rates of mental illness. Treatment plans that exist for female offenders that may be uniquely suited to the female incarceration experience will also be discussed. How psychologists or other mental health professionals can foster positive mother/child relationships when a mother is incarcerated will also be addressed. Lastly, appropriate methods for reintegrating female offenders will be identified, as well as how female offenders can be prepared for reintegration with their families and work lives. Hire our assignment writing services in case your assignment is devastating you.

Females are more susceptible to physical and sexual abuse because they are considered the weaker sex. Some females can survive these traumas and cope with the mental anguish the traumas cause without developing severe mental illness. More than likely, these females had, or continue to have, therapy sessions with mental health professionals, which may account for them not developing mental illness. Other females are more fragile and have developed severe mental issues because of the trauma they have experienced. Of the females who developed severe mental problems, some have somehow managed their trauma and mental illness. In contrast, others have turned to alcohol and drugs with hopes of drowning or at least masking the emotional pain of their trauma and mental illness. Studies have shown that females who experienced victimization regularly were the ones who had the most extensive criminal histories (Lynch et al., 2013). Trauma and victimization, such as molestation and rape, forced prostitution, forced drug use, and domestic violence, plague many women. Also, mothers who have been incarcerated and lost their parental rights may develop mental illness and become addicted to drugs/alcohol or return to substance abuse. Females who experience a few occurrences of abuse and victimization may develop some form of mental illness due to their trauma and maybe post-traumatic stress disorder; however, most of these females do not turn to crime. Repeated abuse and victimization can cause severe trauma, which frequently leads to criminality (Lynch et al., 2013). Treatment with a mental health professional for trauma is essential for recovery.

Many prisons have mental health programs available for those mandated to mental health and substance abuse treatment by the courts and those who request treatment (NCCHC, 2010). The treatment focus of most correctional facilities is to successfully treat incarcerated female offenders; however, treatment programs must be specifically tailored for them. Sorbello et al. (2009) posit that “development of a theoretical approach that embraces gender-specific treatment and addresses the realities of women’s lives is critical” (p. 198). Women’s treatment programs need to specifically address physical and sexual abuse, mental health, children and families, employment history and vocation rehabilitation, life skills, and substance abuse (Sorbello et al., 2009). Studies have shown that the key to reducing female recidivism is addressing these needs (Covington & Bloom, 2007). One of the most critical elements of a treatment plan is helping incarcerated mothers stay connected to their children.

Mothers who become incarcerated cannot take their children with them; therefore, they must find trustworthy people who have the wherewithal to care for the children in their absence. In some cases, the children’s maternal or paternal grandmother can take on the role of caregiver. In other cases, an older sibling or other family members may take on the role of caregiver. If there is no family available, the children become wards of the state, which means they will go into foster care. Unfortunately, it is not mandated to keep the siblings together, and they may be in separate homes. The incarcerated mothers have the opportunity to get their children back upon release, but they must go through a process (D’Andrade & Valdez, 2012). When mothers are incarcerated, their children are the reason many of them get their acts together. They want to be better mothers and give their children opportunities and a lifestyle they were never afforded. Psychologists and other mental health professionals can create treatment plans that foster positive mother/child relationships while the mother is incarcerated. The treatment plans can include parenting classes, job training, mental health counseling, group therapy, and visitation with the children and caregivers (Poehlmann et al., 2010).

In most cases, the mothers of incarcerated mothers become caregivers for the children (Poehlmann et al., 2010). If transportation is available or provided, the children are likely to have regular visits with their mothers. Visits are authorized on certain days for a certain amount of time and are determined by the correctional facility where the mother is incarcerated. To be eligible for visits, the inmates must maintain good behavior and follow all rules and regulations of the facility; they comply because they look forward to visits from their children and family. The average sentence for incarcerated women is from 15 to 49 months (D’Andrade & Valdez, 2012). Therefore, incarcerated women have time to gain the knowledge and skills they will need for reintegration with their families and communities.

Parenting classes, group therapy, visitation, and other programs prepare the mothers for successfully reintegrating with their families (Garcia & Ritter, 2012). A pre-release plan is also essential for successful reintegration with families and into the community, which must be created and implemented upon arrival to prison and not a few months before release, as most correctional facilities attempt (Covington, 2010). A plan for transitional services must also be created and implemented. Transitional services assist the women with easing back into the community. The services consist of helping the women to find housing, job training, employment, continued treatment for substance abuse, continued mental health services, and getting their children back if they are in the foster care system (Covington, 2001).


Covington, S. S. (2001, December). A woman’s journey home: Challenges for female offenders and their children. ASPE; U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Children

Covington, S. S., & Bloom, B. E. (2007). Gender-responsive treatment and services in correctional settings. Women & Therapy, 29(3-4), 9–33. Taylor & Francis Online.

D’Andrade, A. C., & Valdez, M. (2012). Reunifying from Behind Bars: A Quantitative Study of the Relationship Between Parental Incarceration, Service Use, and Foster Care Reunification. Social Work in Public Health, 27(6), 616–636.

Garcia, M., & Ritter, N. (2012, March 26). Improving access to services for female offenders returning to the community. National Institute of Justice. community

Lynch, S. M., DeHart, D. D., Belknap, J., & Green, B. L. (2013, March). Women’s pathways to jail: Examining mental health, trauma, and substance use. U.S. Department of Justice; Bureau of Justice Assistance. Chrome- extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/viewer.html?pdfurl=https%3A%2F %2FWomensPathwaysToJail.pdf&clen=183210&chunk=true

Morash, M., Bynum, T. S., & Koons, B. A. (1998, August). Women offenders: Programming needs and promising approaches. U.S. Department of Justice; National Institute of Justice. chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/viewer.html?pdfurl=https

NCCHC. (2010). Basic mental health services.

NIDA. (2020, June 3). What are the unique treatment needs for women in the criminal justice system? National Institute on Drug Abuse. justice-populations-research-based-guide/what-are-unique-treatment-needs-women-in- criminal-justice-system

Poehlmann, J., Dallaire, D., Loper, A. B., & Shear, L. D. (2010). Children’s contact with their incarcerated parents: Research findings and recommendations. American Psychologist, 65(6), 575–598.

Poehlmann, J. (2003). New Study Shows Children of Incarcerated Mothers Experience Multiple Challenges Children of incarcerated mothers are at risk for unhealthy development.

Sorbello, L., Eccleston, L., Ward, T., & Jones, R. (2002). Treatment needs of female offenders: A Review. Australian Psychologist, 37(3), 198–205. Taylor & Francis Online.


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Prepare an essay of 1,000-1,250 words,

Determine why studies indicate there is a higher level of mental illness in female offenders, including what factors are most significant in the higher rates of mental illness.

Mental Illness in Female Offenders Essay

Mental Illness in Female Offenders Essay

Describe treatment plans that exist for a female offender that may be uniquely suited to the female incarceration experience.

Discuss how a psychologist or other mental health professionals can foster positive mother/child relationships when a mother is incarcerated.

Identify appropriate methods for reintegrating female offenders, including how female offenders can be prepared for reintegration with their families and work lives.

Provide three to five peer-reviewed resources to support your explanations.

Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the APA Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center. An abstract is not required.

This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion.

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