National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women

Innovator Profile: The Center for Gender and Justice

The Center for Gender and Justice was established in 2000. Co-Directors Stephanie S. Covington and Barbara A. Bloom are renowned leaders in the field of gender-responsive criminal justice approaches. The Center works to develop gender-responsive policies and practices for women and girls who are under criminal justice supervision and provides the following expertise and assistance to criminal justice agencies: system analysis, policy review and development, strategic planning, program development, training, assessment, and evaluation. Drs. Covington and Bloom co-authored (with Dr. Barbara Owen) the seminal National Institute of Corrections’ Gender-Responsive Strategies: Research, Practice, and Guiding Principles for Women Offenders. The Center for Gender and Justice also offers training on gender-responsive programs developed by Dr. Covington, including:

  • Helping Women Recover: A Program for Treating Addiction (substance abuse treatment that integrates the woman’s pathway, addiction, trauma, and relational issues) and
  • Beyond Trauma: A Healing Journey for Women, which can be delivered together or on their own.

Both Helping Women Recover and Beyond Trauma are listed on the SAMSHA-sponsored National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). Click here to read the summary of these programs.

An Interview with Dr. Stephanie Covington, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. of the Center for Gender and Justice

Dr. Stephanie Covington is a pioneer in the field of gender-responsive services for justice-involved women, clinician, author, and co-director of the Center for Gender and Justice. Dr. Covington co-authored the seminal work: Gender-Responsive Strategies: Research, Practice, and Guiding Principles for Women Offenders.

Q How have services for women involved in the criminal justice system changed over the past 5-10 years?

A In many locations, I’ve seen a greater acknowledgement of women and their specific needs; this has occurred as a result of the increasing number of women involved in criminal justice system. With this shift in consciousness, policymakers and practitioners are beginning to see that “doing business as usual” is just not enough. It is important to recognize, however, that changes have not occurred similarly across jurisdictions. So in summary, while more people in the field have begun to understand what we should be doing with women, not everyone is actually doing it.

What positive changes or successes have you seen occurring in the field of gender-informed practices?

There has been greater acknowledgement that working with women requires different skills and interventions. Another important change is that there is a greater understanding of trauma in the lives of justice-involved women and some institutions are considering how to revise operational policy and practice to be more trauma-informed.

Watch Dr. Covington leading a group intervention with women inmates at Rockville Correctional Facility in Indiana (courtesy of the Oprah Winfrey Network, Breaking Down the Bars), click on any of the links below:

Coming to Crossroads and Making Choices

Family Relationship

Support Systems and Bad Influences

Transformation/Preparing for Reentry

For full episodes and exclusive web clips from Breaking Down the Bars: Rockville, please visit The Center for Gender and Justice

What do you see happening in the field of criminal justice as it relates to women or gender-informed practices in the next few years?

Many states, because of the economic downturn, are realizing that they cannot afford to continue to run the criminal justice system as it is currently designed. Since women are more often nonviolent offenders, perhaps they will be less likely to be institutionalized and more likely to be in community supervision.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing the field in implementing gender-responsive strategies?

Again, a result of the economic downturn, treatment and service providers are cutting services, and often women’s services are the first to be cut from criminal justice budgets. Unfortunately, women are likely to have fewer opportunities than they had before. A challenge has always been helping women, who often have fewer marketable skills and work experience then male offenders, get a job. We know that one of the critical factors that reduce someone’s likelihood to recidivate is employment. Yet with the current economic climate, helping women secure jobs becomes even more complicated. Another major challenge is that women’s transition from prison to the community has not been considered in a systemic way. The literature on reentry often describes gender-neutral processes and recommendations. The challenges specific to women in reentry – unrealistic parole conditions, reuniting with children, recovery from addiction and trauma, and dealing with different social service agencies with different requirements, for example – need to also be considered.

What advice do you have for professionals working in the field who want to achieve better outcomes with the justice-involved women with whom they work?

Professionals should continue to read the growing research literature and attend training events on gender-responsive approaches. Many resources are available for free at the Center for Gender and Justice’s website and others. In addition, professionals are encouraged to assess their environment – what are things that can be done to make this a better place for women? Professionals might work to find allies in the workplace that also have an interest in improving practices with women. This can include forming an official workgroup or just meeting over lunch. Also, professionals who work with justice-involved women may also want to explore strategies for self-care; working with women in institutional settings can be very challenging. Finally, it is not enough to tweak or revise programs developed for men; professionals should ensure that they are using programming developed specifically for women.

Are you aware of any up and coming resources that are being developed, for which the field should be on the lookout?

I am currently testing a new curriculum in Michigan, Beyond Violence: A Prevention Program for Women. This curriculum will provide guidance on facilitating sessions for women in institutional and community settings who have committed violent or aggressive crimes. For more information on the program, please click here.

For more information on Dr. Covington and her work, visit:

Dr. Covington’s Website
The Center for Gender and Justice

Are there publications or resources, about which practitioners should be aware?

Gender-Responsive Strategies: Research, Practice, and Guiding Principles for Women Offenders (Barbara Bloom, Barbara Owen, and Stephanie Covington)

Gendered Justice: Addressing Female Offenders (Barbara Bloom)

Addressing the Mental Health Needs for Women (Barbara Bloom and Stephanie Covington)

For a complete list of program materials, please visit