National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women Newsletter
The NRCJIW provides guidance and support to justice professionals – and promotes evidence-based, gender-responsive policies and practices – to reduce the number and improve the outcomes of women involved in the criminal justice system.
Meet our Newest Innovator: JusticeHome
The Women's Prison Association's (WPA) JusticeHome program is an intensive, home-based gender-responsive alternative to incarceration (ATI) for women facing incarceration for at least six months, and, more commonly for one to four years, as a result of felony charges. The program is designed to promote public safety by reducing a defendant's likelihood of engaging in future criminal behavior. Clients benefit from gender-specific, evidence-based approaches and interventions in an environment where new, prosocial and adaptive behaviors will determine long-term stability and abstinence from crime. The JusticeHome concept is based on the notion that clients' daily lives within their own communities offer countless opportunities to practice and refine new skills, while also preventing the disruption of homelessness and family separation—including placement of children in foster care—that can happen when women are incarcerated. For many years, WPA operated a residential ATI, where women worked with a case manager and participated in household activities in addition to completing drug treatment and other mandates in the community. Women in the residential ATI program faced many of the same reentry challenges—securing safe affordable housing, finding and keeping a job, and managing the challenges of children and family. Program participants were tremendously successful at achieving their goals, and most graduated from the program and avoided additional criminal involvement. After the program was forced to close due to funding cuts, WPA pursued implementation of JusticeHome to build on what worked at their residential ATI, as well as other community-based programs. The JusticeHome program benefits families and communities by using well-planned strategies such as close community supervision and support throughout a woman's participation; continual assessment to address family, household and community risk factors; and engagement and coordination with other service providers and court representatives to support a woman's success.
The NRCJIW interviewed the Women's Prison Association Executive Director, Georgia Lerner for this profile, which is excerpted below. To read the interview in its entirety, click here.
What inspired you to begin the JusticeHome program?
We felt there were some challenges with reentry that contributed to a woman's return to the criminal justice system. We found, through our experience operating a family preservation/foster care prevention program, that over the course of the first 10 years, families were successfully staying together and women were not using drugs. This program used an intensive home-based case management model to partner with families in order to improve child protective factors and address the drug use and mental illness that were creating risk to their children. More recently, we also began using the WRNA in some of our programs to identify women's risk, needs and protective factors. By coupling the use of the WRNA with the intensive home-based case work, we thought we could partner more effectively with the women to build on their strengths and reduce risks that were contributing to their criminal behavior.
JusticeHome is a unique program where women can serve their time at home and be with their children. How did you come to this program decision?
We thought it would be ideal to work with women in their own homes because we could avoid reentry issues and support women in their own environments. We believed it would be better if women could learn and practice skills in a real environment rather than trying to apply their knowledge and skills in a correctional environment, which, of course, is unlike the homes and communities where they will live and work after incarceration. We built on the intensive family case management program model aimed at preventing the removal of children to foster care when a mother is mentally ill and/or using illegal drugs. As I mentioned, we added a gender-specific assessment to identify risk factors and develop specific goals to address those risks as well as intensive home-based interventions, ongoing assessments of children and family well-being, and the promotion of positive parenting skills. Over time, we have learned that all of these efforts lead to increased family stability and cost much less than sending a woman to prison.
Can you describe how the program works? How do women learn about the program? How are they selected to participate in the program?
The program is designed to promote public safety by reducing a woman's likelihood of engaging in future criminal behavior. Women facing a minimum of six months of incarceration as a result of felony charges from the New York State court system are eligible to participate in this program. So far, most of our clients are women involved in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan courts. We get referrals from the courts, district attorneys (DAs), jails, staff of agencies that work with justice-involved women in jails and other programs that conduct outreach, and women contact us directly for assistance. In New York, women know about WPA and that they can get assigned to a program instead of jail. The DA has discretion to refer women to us. Right now, we have an active caseload of 25 women.
To participate, the women in our program must have been charged with a felony. WPA does not limit the types of crimes that clients may be facing; however, the program's funder disqualifies certain gun charges from eligibility. A potential client must be willing to address the underlying causes of her criminality/criminal behavior. If we screen someone whose major areas of risk are mental illness with active psychotic symptoms, and she's not willing to get treatment, then she would not be a good candidate for the program. We also don't want to limit women to articulating goals that are connected with the WRNA outcomes. We must address the criminogenic risks, but we also urge women to think of additional areas of their lives where they'd like to make constructive change. We don't take women assessed as low risk because research does not support focusing on this population.
Key components of the program include:
- The application of proven, gender responsive instruments to more accurately address specific risks and strengths.
- Utilization of gender responsive and evidence-based interventions, such as cognitive behavioral treatment groups to promote healthy coping strategies and address histories of trauma.
- Use of clinical expertise to improve responsiveness to mental illness and co-occurring disorders.
- Additional opportunities to benefit families and communities through intensive home-based interventions.
- Ongoing assessment of child and family well-being.
- Support and promotion of positive parenting skills.
How many women have you served in the program since it launched in 2013? What have been the results so far?
While still early, the results so far are very promising. As of June 30, 2014, we have served a total of 30 women. In the first year, we had 11 graduates. Many of our initial referrals were young and had uncomplicated criminal histories, but our client population is now more consistent with the overall WPA population--older with predicate felonies. Of the 11 who have graduated, we have seen a reduction in all of the areas they were screened as high risk (e.g., mental illness, housing instability, education, antisocial peer association). Depending on their issues, they were assessed as low risk upon graduation. We are currently receiving three to four referrals per month. Going forward, we anticipate that 35 women will graduate each year.
AJA and NRCJIW Convene "Achieving More Effective Outcomes with Women in Jails" Summit
On October 16-17, AJA and the Center for Effective Public Policy's National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women (NRCJIW) hosted the first-ever summit on women in jails: Achieving More Effective Outcomes with Women in Jails: A Summit to Identify Strategies to Build and Expand Gender Responsive Approaches that Work. Coming on the heels of the January/February 2014 American Jails magazine issue, "In Jail and Female," the summit brought together jail administrators, practitioners, community providers, researchers and criminal justice professionals with diverse experience, expertise and knowledge regarding gender- and trauma-informed policies and practices and managing women in jails. Attendees hailed the event as a positive move forward to increase awareness among jail leadership and staff about gender-responsive strategies that can improve their effectiveness when working with women inmates and enhance facility safety and security for staff and inmates. A written publication and meeting materials will be made available in 2016. In the meantime, visit the NRCJIW website for related events and information.
NRCJIW Webinar Recording Now Available: "Problem Solving Clinic on the Women's Risk Needs Assessment"
Click here to listen to a recorded version of the Problem Solving Clinic on the Women's Risk Needs Assessment, an August 20, 2014 webinar co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Institute of Corrections featuring Ashley Bauman, M.S., M.B.A., University of Cincinnati School of Criminal Justice and Stevyn Fogg, National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women (NRCJIW).
A select list of invitees participated in this webinar, which was designed to provide peer TA and troubleshooting guidance with those state and local jurisdictions who have implemented the WRNA or WRNA-T in their jurisdictions. During the session, participants:
- Articulated the benefits and challenges of using the WRNA.
- Learned about solutions to similar challenges.
- Acquired information about best practices for implementing gender responsive assessments alone or in conjunction with other risk assessment tools. Were made aware of resources available from NRCJIW, National Institute of Corrections, and the University of Cincinnati.
For information about the WRNA or the 2015 WRNA Summit, please contact Ms. Bauman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now Available: Presentation, Strategies and Skills for Working Effectively with Justice Involved Women: Applying a Trauma-Informed Approach
Now available: presentation materials from "Presentation, Strategies and Skills for Working Effectively with Justice Involved Women: Applying a Trauma-Informed Approach," a session delivered by Alyssa Benedict of CORE Associates at the 2014 Summer APPA Institute. This presentation focused on why it is so important to consider the effects of trauma when working with justice involved women, explained why trauma can be so destructive to these women, described the long-term effects of trauma, and described the eight steps that can be taken to advance our efforts to become more trauma-informed:
- Make a commitment to trauma-informed practice
- Support and train staff
- Adopt trauma-informed language and communications
- Create a trauma-informed physical space
- Revise existing procedures to be more trauma-informed
- Implement new trauma-informed procedures
- Implement strategies to help women manage difficult trauma symptoms (one-on-one; group)
- Build a safe, trauma-informed environment
Click here to access the presentation materials from this session. For more information on working with women in this context, please see Using Trauma-Informed Practices to Enhance Safety and Security in Women's Correctional Facilities.