Abstract: Impacts of an Engaged Mindfulness on Women Residents in a Community Correctional Facility: A Focus Group Narrative Analysis (Society for Social Work and Research 28th Annual Conference - Recentering & Democratizing Knowledge: The Next 30 Years of Social Work Science)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Eastern Standard Time Zone (EST).

SSWR 2024 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 11. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

Impacts of an Engaged Mindfulness on Women Residents in a Community Correctional Facility: A Focus Group Narrative Analysis

Friday, January 12, 2024
Independence BR C, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
My Ngoc To, MSW, PhD Student, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Shannon Sliva, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Miriam Valdovinos, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Denver
Background and Purpose:

Since 1980, the number of incarcerated women has grown at twice the rate of incarcerated men. Incarcerated women are more likely than men to have experienced higher rates of trauma, sexual victimization, and mental illness. In correctional facilities, which are often adversarial in nature, women are more likely to experience further violence and have unmet health needs, which compounds their trauma and increases recidivism (Tripodi et al., 2019). Community correctional facilities play key roles in reintegration but are often experienced as high stress and low trust environments among women residents (Cantora et al., 2016). Trauma-informed interventions, therefore, would be important to integrate into correctional facilities in order to improve recidivism rates.

Mindfulness trainings have been shown to increase empathy, mindful observation, and distress tolerance in carceral settings (Dekeyser et al., 2008; Skoranski et al., 2019). Engaged mindfulness applies mindfulness and compassion practices for promoting social justice (Magee, 2016) and could be an effective trauma-informed approach within community correctional settings. Yet, it has been insufficiently researched; this study therefore sought to explore the effects of engaged mindfulness on the individual wellbeing and interpersonal relationships among women residents in community correctional settings.


In collaboration with a Denver-based community correctional facility, we developed a four-week engaged mindfulness program that incorporated circle processes, somatic, arts-based, and dyadic exercises. A total of 23 participants enrolled in the study, with an average of 12 participants in each group session. Data was collected via focus group recordings, final evaluations, and co-facilitator reflexive memos conducted after each session. Focus groups were narratively analyzed for how narratives that the women expressed about themselves and the interpersonal dynamics of the class changed within each session and across the workshop series. Simple thematic analysis was used to analyze responses in final evaluations and reflective memos, which were then triangulated with narrative findings.


Preliminary findings show that the women found the mindfulness groups to be broadly beneficial, with significant impacts on their daily mental wellbeing and relationships. Participants reported reductions in anxiety and stress coupled with improvements in sleep, bodily awareness, emotion regulation, and empathy. Narrative elements related to interpersonal relationships included showing greater vulnerability, increased laughter, and more frequent affirmative responses to each other over time. Narrative themes emerged as participants shared how mindfulness and compassion practices helped them view their experiences in a more positive light and identify the similarities and strengths in their stories as women transitioning back into community.

Implications and Conclusions:

This exploratory study addresses the gap of knowledge on mindfulness within community correctional settings. Findings suggest that engaged mindfulness programs have potential benefit women in community correctional settings in ways that align with trauma-informed practices. Such mindfulness trainings can foster a greater a sense of community among residents and help develop socioemotional tools for coping with the stress of reintegration, which can have major impacts on recidivism. More work in this area is necessary to further explore best pedagogical methods for teaching mindfulness within community correctional facilities.