Substance abuse is a major contributing factor to women being incarcerated in the United States, and substance abuse is a critical factor in recidivism. Although women offenders have different reasons for drug use, drug use patterns, life circumstances, and parental responsibilities than men, treatment approaches for women offenders have been largely developed from studies of treatment for incarcerated men and non-offending women in the general community. The purpose of this article is to summarize the recent literature on the treatment needs of women offenders with substance abuse problems and critically examine the six empirical studies that evaluate gender-specific programmatic interventions designed for women offenders. A systematic review of these six empirical studies assessed design, methods, measures, and outcomes. While these studies contribute to the knowledge base, five areas were identified to advance research and improve treatment outcomes for women offenders: 1) randomized controlled design, 2) larger sample size, 3) clear description of program elements and interventions, 4) consistent definition of outcomes and measurement of outcomes, and 5) statistical analyses to control for multiple program elements in determining contribution to treatment outcomes. Implications for practice, program development, and future research to improve treatment outcomes for women offenders are discussed.
1Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
2University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
3University of Kentucky College of Nursing, Lexington, Kentucky, USA