Abstract: Evaluation of in-Prison Programming for Incarcerated Women: Addressing Trauma and Prior Victimization (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Evaluation of in-Prison Programming for Incarcerated Women: Addressing Trauma and Prior Victimization

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Liberty Ballroom N, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Janine Zweig, PhD, Associate VP of Justice Policy and Senior Fellow, Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, DC
Janeen Buck-Willison, MSJ, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, DC
Storm Ervin, MPP, Research Analyst, Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, DC
Background and Purpose:

Incarcerated women often suffer violent victimization histories that precede their sentences behind bars, as well as experience victimization while incarcerated, causing correctional facilities to serve as default victim service agencies. However, little is known about the nature of victim services and trauma-informed care for women in prison. With funding from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the Urban Institute (Urban) and its partners—the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA), the National Center on Victims of Crime (NCVC), and the Center for Effective Public Policy (CEPP)--are conducting a two-phase, mixed methods study of the policies, programs, and practices used in state prisons nationwide to address the effects of violent victimization prevalent among incarcerated women. The goal is to generate actionable information for policymakers, practitioners, and program developers to address the needs of incarcerated women around these issues.


This is a two-tiered evaluation. Tier 1 involves a national scan of practice where researchers administered a national survey to sexual assault and domestic violence coalitions and conducted interviews with representatives from state departments of corrections (DOCs). Tier 1 provided a foundation on which we narrowed our focus in Tier 2 where we conducted in-depth interviews with program and correctional staff from 15 women’s prisons with innovative and promising practices and further identified 5 of those 15 sites with comprehensive victim services, policies, and programming to serve as case studies.


This presentation will present qualitative findings from interviews with 41 state DOCs and 15 women’s facilities across the nation with promising practices. The findings from the DOC interviews provide a portrait of state-level DOC policies, programs, intake and assessment practices, and custodial procedures for incarcerated women that address both prior trauma and victimization, and that which may happen while incarcerated. Findings from the interviews with women’s facilities provide a detailed understanding of facility-level programs, procedures, and practices including how individual prison facilities or community-based programs are using and implementing victim services and/or trauma-informed practices and programs to assist incarcerated women with victimization histories and experiences.

Conclusions and Implications:

Implications of this study include 1) identifying the full-range of victim services and trauma-informed practices and programs for women with victimization histories and experiences within state correctional facilities and through in-reach from community-based victim service providers (2) providing examples of promising victim services and trauma-informed-care practices that can improve victims’ well being and safety, and reduce institutional misconduct, recidivism, and other metrics related to safety within and outside of correctional facilities; (3) establishing a knowledge base on prison-based victim services and trauma-informed practices and programs, which can be used to inform future evaluation studies; (4) distinguishing correctional facilities that incorporate victim service delivery models by understanding their role in providing services to incarcerated women who have been victims of crime, violence, and trauma; and (5) identifying operational policies, procedures, and practices within correctional facilities that can be adjusted to reflect a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach, and providing a road map on how to achieve effective implementation within facilities.