Abstract: Gender Differences in Service Needs among County Jail Entrants (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

62P Gender Differences in Service Needs among County Jail Entrants

Friday, January 15, 2010
* noted as presenting author
Hyunzee Jung, MSW , University of Pittsburgh, PhD candidate, Pittsburgh, PA
Hide Yamatani, PhD , University of Pittsburgh, Associate Dean for Research, Pittsburgh, PA
Background and Purpose: The adult female offender population has grown steadily and at a greater pace than male counterparts for the last two decades. One-day count revealed that the number of adult women jail inmates increased by 167 percent from 37,198 in 1990 to 99,195 in 2008 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008). During the same period, male jail inmates increased only by 86 percent. Furthermore, women offenders carry different life circumstances as well as offense charges from men's. Women are more likely to be jailed for drug offenses than men (Wilson, Gallagher, & McKenzie, 2000), and much higher proportion of incarcerated women have minority children compared to men (Beck et al., 1993). Women bear more parenting responsibilities and often have to negotiate complicated arrangements with their own parent, relatives or the foster care system (Beck et al., 1993). Nonetheless, many services and programs for helping inmates not to recidivate are blind to gender and centered on needs of male offenders. This study aims to present gender differences in service needs and life circumstances between men and women jail inmates.

Method: The sample consists of 2,454 men and 549 women who were booked into the Allegheny County Jail in Pennsylvania in December 2005 . The jail intake dataset contains multiple variables assessing the ACJ entrants' service needs including parenthood, unemployment, and drug and alcohol issues. Chi-square and logistic regression analysis were conducted.

Results: Higher percentage of female offenders were a custodial parent than male counterparts (52% vs. 26%, Phi = .24), had lived with the child upon arrest (56% vs. 35%, Phi = .18), and was involved with CYF (37% vs. 11%, Phi = .28). Employment rate prior to incarceration was lower for women than men (21% vs. 47%, Phi = .20), and more women had drug or alcohol issues (61% vs. 52%, Phi = .07) compared to men. Logistic regression with associated variables held constant revealed that women offenders expressed their service needs two times or more than men counterparts, not only for aggregated overall services, but also for specific areas including mental health, drug and alcohol, parenting, and family counseling. All findings were statistically significant at p < .001 level.

Conclusions and Implications: Services should be differentially targeted between gender groups. Females are more likely to be a custodial parent, and their needs related to their children as well as the needs of the children themselves are prominent to be met. In addition, higher expression of service needs among women offenders may reflect their higher motivation and readiness to change, and indicate the potential that services geared appropriately toward women's needs may prove highly effective. Women offenders are clearly different population from men counterparts and services and programs should be tailored properly according to their different needs to maximize their positive outcome.