This is the eighth in a series of bimonthly newsletters from the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women (NRCJIW).
National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women


Current Opportunities For Technical Assistance from NRCJIW: Apply Now!

The NRCJIW offers training and technical assistance to government agencies and community and faith-based organizations to support their work with justice-involved women. The NRCJIW provides assistance and information to practitioners through a variety of means, including:

  • Making presentations at national and state criminal justice professional associations
  • Providing speakers for state and local conferences and training events
  • Conducting webinars on key topics
  • Facilitating strategic planning, leadership, policy development and other meetings
  • Producing and disseminating documents such as topical briefs, coaching packets, and "how-to's"
  • Maintaining a website (calendar of events, highlights of successful programs, profiles of leaders, emerging research, links and resources)
  • Responding to requests for information from the field.

For frequently asked questions about the assistance we offer, visit or click here to download a TTA Request Form.

Resources Available on the NRCJIW Web Site

The NRCJIW web site ( maintains an extensive catalog of articles and other documents on a variety of topics related to women involved in the criminal justice system.  The topics include:

  • General Resources
  • Correctional Environments
  • Offender Management and Supervision
  • Classification, Assessment, and Case Management
  • Treatment, Interventions, and Services
  • Community Reentry
  • Quality Assurance and Evaluation
  • Critical Issues

To access resources in these areas, or to be connected to products produced by the NRCJIW or linked to its partners, visit

Have a Question About Women Involved in the Justice System?

NRCJIW has staff available to answer your questions about working with justice involved women.  A sample of previously asked questions can be found at  If you have a question you would like us to research and answer, visit

National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women Newsletter

June 2013

This is the eighth in a series of bimonthly newsletters from the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women (NRCJIW). 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.

NRCJIW Offering Training and Technical Assistance on Implementing Gender-Responsive Approaches to Pretrial Screening and Services

The National Resource Center on Justice-Involved Women (NRCJIW) is accepting letters of interest from local criminal justice agencies interested in receiving no-cost training and technical assistance to implement gender-responsive approaches to pretrial screening and services. Assistance will be provided by content experts and tailored to the unique challenges/needs of the requesting jurisdiction. Up to three jurisdictions will be selected to receive on-site training and technical assistance supplemented by off-site webinars and meetings over a 12-month project period beginning August 1, 2013 and ending July 31, 2014. Agencies administering pretrial services are encouraged to submit a letter of interest no more than 4 pages in length outlining commitment of key stakeholders, capacity to participate, and any policies or initiatives engaged in or interested in engaging. The deadline for responding to this solicitation is June 28, 2013. Please click here for more information.

New NRCJIW Resource: Responding to the Needs of Women Veterans Involved in the Criminal Justice System

The percentage of women serving in the military is growing: In 2009, women comprised 8 percent of the total veteran population in the United States. An increase in the number of women veterans is expected to continue—the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs3 projects that the female veteran population will increase by 10% from 2010-2020, while the male veteran population will decrease by 17%.

Despite the growing number of women serving in the military, little data exists on women veterans in both the civilian and military criminal justice systems. In 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice estimated that veterans made up about 10% of those serving time in state and federal prisons and that women veterans made up about 1% of this population – or approximately 1,400 women.

Meeting the mental health needs of justice-involved male veterans is of growing concern to criminal justice practitioners, as evidenced by the increased use of specialty courts and other jail diversion programs for veterans. Similar to this growing concern over meeting the specific needs of justice-involved male veterans, there is also a concern over the criminal justice system's ability to meet the complex needs of women veterans. Criminal justice practitioners must understand that the issues facing women veterans in the justice system may be complex as a result of untreated trauma, mental illness, and substance abuse, and their unique military experiences.

This document highlights the unique experiences and needs of women veterans who become justice-involved and offers a gender and trauma informed approach that criminal justice practitioners can use to more effectively manage this population. To download this exciting new resource, click here.

New NRCJIW Innovator: Lynn Bissonnette, Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) – Framingham

MCI Framingham is a medium security correctional facility for females, located 22 miles west of Boston, and is the Massachusetts Department of Correction's only committing institution for female offenders. Lynn Bissonnette, MCI Framingham Superintendent, is pioneering the implementation of trauma-informed practice for the women housed within the facility. Below is an excerpt of our interview with her about this groundbreaking work.

Q: In your experiences working in male and female institutions, what's different about working with women?

A: Women offenders are more challenging to manage because of their mental health and medical issues, histories of trauma, and responsibilities as primary caretakers of children. While male offenders suffer as well, the majority of men tend to be easier to manage and "do their time" more easily. Women tend to share more of their emotions, issues, and challenges with staff. Another critical challenge comes from trying to apply state-level policies – which were developed for the majority male population – to women offenders.

Why Provide Trauma Informed Care to Justice-Involved Women?

There is a growing awareness that past traumatic experiences can play a significant role in women's criminal justice involvement, adjustment within institutional settings, and success in the community. Paying attention to this shift towards trauma-informed practices in corrections is critical for a number of reasons (Lynch et al., 2012; Miller & Najavits, 2012):

  1. There is an extremely high prevalence of trauma among female inmates;
  2. Some of the basic features of female correctional facilities can function as significant trauma triggers for female inmates.
  3. Evidence suggests that the lack of trauma-informed practices in facilities has a negative effect and compromises inmate mental health and success inside and outside of facilities.
  4. Creating a trauma-informed culture can contribute to greater institutional safety and security.

Q: What are some characteristics, in your mind, of a facility that is trauma informed?

A: A trauma informed facility is one that is humane, respectful and caring. These are concepts that we have integrated into the Department of Correction's vision, and MCI Framingham's mission and core values. One of the overarching goals in our Department's strategic plan is to create a healing environment, not just for inmates but also for staff. Staff set the tone for the entire facility, so it is important to acknowledge appropriate behavior and address behavior that is not acceptable.

Q: What are some other steps you took to make MCI Framingham a trauma-informed facility?

A: An important step we took was opening a new unit in April 2012 called the Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU). The impetus for the unit was to separate inmates/detainees who were detoxing upon admission from those who were on mental health watch (suicide watch). The ITU was designed exclusively for inmates on mental health watch or crisis intervention and manages women under a phased system. A team of clinical staff, whose office and group space is directly on the unit, provides treatment groups on the unit, meets daily with each inmate to review her progress/behavior, and assesses and then and assigns them to one of four phases: inmates on one-to-one watch; inmates on 15 minute watch; inmates allowed to join the community for meals, exercise, structured and unstructured activities; and inmates who can leave the unit to attend programs in the general population and then return to the unit.

We also manage women in the ITU who require behavior management plans and those who are contraindicated for segregation. Incentive plans are used in lieu of formal discipline and have been more effective in changing behavior.

Q: What benefits have you seen in MCI Framingham as a result of being more trauma-informed?

A: Since implementing our various efforts, we have seen dramatic differences in the behavior of our female population.

Benefits of Implementing Trauma-Informed Approaches at MCI Framingham

Frequency of Incidents in 2011 and 2012




Frequency Change

% Change

Inmate-on-staff assaults





Inmate-on-inmate assaults





Inmate-on-inmate fights





Segregation placements





Disciplinary reports





Suicide attempts





One-on-one mental health watches





Petitions for psychiatric evaluation





Crisis contacts





Self-injury incidents





To read more about the program at MCI Framingham and our complete interview with Lynn Bisonnette, click here.

Look for NRCJIW at These National Conferences

Are you planning to attend the ACA, APPA, or AJFO conferences later this year?  If so, please join the NRCJIW for the following workshops:

  • Best Practices in the Use of Restraints with Pregnant Women Under Correctional Custody, American Correctional Association Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Monday, August 12, 4:15 pm – 5:45 pm.
  • Guidance on Developing Gender-Responsive Discipline Policy With Women Inmates, American Correctional Association Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Wednesday, August 14, 8:30 am – 10:00 am. 
  • Strategies and Skill Sets for Working with Women: Applying a Trauma-Informed Approach, American Probation and Parole Association Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, Sunday, July 28, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.
  • Reflections on the Past, Present and Future of Gender-Informed Criminal Justice, Adult and Juvenile Female Offender Conference in Portland, Maine, October 6 - 10 (Final date and time TBA).
  • Gender-Informed Discipline and Sanctions Policy for Female Inmates, Adult and Juvenile Female Offender Conference in Portland, Maine, October 6 - 10 (Final date and time TBA).

Copyright © 2013 National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women , All rights reserved.

National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women is funded in whole or in part through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this newsletter (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).

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