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The Problem of Female Offenders’ Recidivism Essay


Recidivism is one of the factors contributing to such issues as prisons’ overload, increasing crime rates, and so on. Recidivism among male offenders has been studied in significant detail while female offenders’ recidivism attracted researchers’ attention a few decades ago. The number of incarcerated women is only about 10%, but the rate of women offenders in American jails and prisons is increasing at an alarming pace as it rose by over 20% between 2000 and 2009 (Golder et al., 2013). Importantly, it has been estimated that up to 50% of former inmates reenter (Barrick, Lattimore, & Visher, 2014). It is also noteworthy that substance abuse is a characteristic feature of the vast majority of female offenders who are under parole/probation supervision (Golder et al., 2013). These numbers show that the effectiveness of correctional programs and incentives is doubtful.

The proposed study will focus on the link between parole/probation officers’ behavior and female recidivism. Morash, Kashy, Smith, and Cobbina (2016) found the indirect association between some behaviors of parole/probation officers and women offenders’ recidivism. Barrick et al. (2014) note that social ties are some of the most influential factors affecting female offenders’ behavior. The ties include relationships with relatives, colleagues, community, as well as parole/probation officers. It is necessary to explore the association with the focus on the officers’ and former offenders’ perspectives on the matter.

The primary concepts associated with the proposed research include recidivism and substance abuse. In this study, recidivism will be conceptualized as re-offending within a year after the completion of a substance abuse treatment program. Substance abuse will be the use of any illicit drug during the probation/parole period after the completion of the substance abuse treatment program.

The theoretical foundation of this study will be the social bond theory. This theory implies that social links decrease criminal behaviors (Barrick et al., 2014). The social bond theory is appropriate for this study as it provides the framework for analyzing relationships between parole/probation officers and female offenders. It is possible to hypothesize that improper behavior of parole/probation officers (being unsupportive, judging, incompetent, and so on) has a significant influence on women offenders’ recidivism. The research questions of the proposed study can be formulated as follows: How does parole/probation officers’ inappropriate behavior affect female offenders’ recidivism? What are the reasons for such behaviors?

The survey research is the general approach chosen as it will provide the researcher with in-depth insights into the major stakeholders (parole/probation officers and women offenders). The qualitative research design will be the most appropriate as the study focuses on people’s views rather than some trends existing in society. Semi-structured interviews will be the central data collection method. The researcher will be able to ask a variety of questions to elicit the necessary information and encourage the participants to share their ideas as the researcher does not have to use a set of prepared questions.

The overall goal of this study is to enhance the cost-effectiveness of the existing correctional programs. The study will unveil the shortcomings of the system, which will be the first step in its improvement. It may also reduce the rate of recidivism among female offenders. Finally, it will make American society stronger as women will be active members of the society rather than outcasts with high chances of reentering.

Literature Review

As has been mentioned above, recidivism among female offenders has become a topic of research quite recently. It is also necessary to note that researchers often use the frameworks utilized in studies concerning male offenders’ recidivism (Greiner, Law, & Brown, 2015). Researchers focus on factors affecting recidivism, as well as methodological and theoretical frameworks that can be used for the analysis of women offenders’ recidivism. It has been found that the major factors contributing to female offenders’ reentering are unemployment, substance abuse, weak social (mainly, family) ties, and so on (Greiner et al., 2015). Nonetheless, researchers tend to have different views on the extent these factors affect women’s behavior and the particular agents associated with the factors mentioned above.

For example, social ties are regarded as some of the most influential determinants of females’ engagement in criminal behavior. Barrick et al. (2014) stress that social ties are more important for women offenders as compared to male offenders. The strongest effects have family ties (especially the relationships with children) Makarios, Steiner, and Travis (2012) also claim that social links are essential as treatment programs involving the use of social ties (family members, communities) are more effective than less inclusive programs. Greiner et al. (2015) found that strong family ties correlated negatively with female offenders’ recidivism. Community involvement appeared to be less relevant.

At the same time, some researchers go beyond these conventional social bonds and concentrate on the relationships between the parole/probation officer and women offenders. For instance, Morash, Kashy, Smith, and Cobbina (2015) argue that supervision interactions have a significant impact on female offenders’ criminal behavior. The researchers emphasize that parole/probation officers’ punitive styles contribute to women offenders’ recidivism while supportiveness is associated with positive outcomes for those under supervision. It is important to note that there is certain controversy associated with the role of parole/probation officers’ behavior plays in female offenders’ life under supervision.

Unlike the studies mentioned above, some researchers find no direct connection between parole/probation interactions and female recidivism. For instance, Morash et al. (2016) found no direct association between parole/probation officers’ behaviors and female offenders’ recidivism. Nevertheless, the indirect outcomes included some negative effects on women’s psychological and emotional state. The researchers claim that inappropriate behavior of parole/probation officers often contributed to the development of depressive symptoms and anxiety, which was often associated with substance abuse and engagement in criminal activities.

Rellahan (2017) provides data that are consistent with the findings mentioned above. The author claims that the correctional system is often associated with punitive styles and a lack of understanding that is one of its key shortcomings. Rellahan (2017) reports that the trauma-informed approach has already proved to be effective as it reduced the rate of female offenders’ recidivism substantially. This approach implies the use of supportive styles and certain interventions including discussions concerning women offenders’ daily experiences (their fears, hopes, needs, achievements, difficulties, and so on).

As has been mentioned above, substance abuse is regarded as one of the central factors contributing to recidivism (both in men and women). Golder et al. (2013) note that up to 58% of female offenders on probation and parole used at least one type of illicit substance. Interestingly, those on probation were more likely to use illicit substances and recidivate compared to female offenders on parole. The researchers also stress that almost all women offenders who participated in their research were victims of some sort of violence at a certain (often prolonged) period of their life. These findings are consistent with the information provided by Rellahan (2017). At the same time, women offenders who complete a substance abuse treatment program are less likely to re-offend (Makarios et al., 2012). The effectiveness of these programs is partially due to the approach used. This approach implies support, assistance, training, and informing (Makarios et al., 2012).

The review of the existing literature unveils several gaps yet to be filled. For example, researchers stress that substance abuse is one of the essential factors contributing to recidivism among women offenders. However, they do not explore the correlation and links between this factor and other factors such as the role of social ties. Further research could focus on exploring the ways relationships with other people including parole/probation officers affect females’ ability to overcome their addictions. It is possible to examine female offenders’ views on the matter. They could share their ideas concerning barriers preventing them from overcoming their health issue and reentering successfully into the community.

Apart from that, it is still unclear why parole/probation interactions become ineffective. Some research has been done when it comes to offenders’ evaluation of their experiences, but little attention has been paid to parole/probation officers’ perspectives. Further research could address this gap through interviewing (and observing behaviors of) parole/probation officers. It is important to understand the reasons behind the inappropriate behaviors of these agents. It is also important to analyze the effectiveness of various programs to prepare the platform for comprehensive reform in the sphere of correctional efforts.


Barrick, K., Lattimore, P., & Visher, C. (2014). Reentering women: The impact of social ties on long-term recidivism. The Prison Journal, 94(3), 279-304.

Golder, S., Hall, M., Logan, T., Higgins, G., Dishon, A., Renn, T., & Winham, K. (2013). Substance use among victimized women on probation and parole. Substance Use & Misuse, 49(4), 435-447.

Greiner, L., Law, M., & Brown, S. (2015). Using dynamic factors to predict recidivism among women. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 42(5), 457-480.

Makarios, M., Steiner, B., Travis, L. F. (2012). Examining the predictors pf recidivism among men and women released from prison in Ohio. In M. Stohr, A. Walsh, & C. Hemmens (Eds.), Corrections: A text/reader (pp. 285-297). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Morash, M., Kashy, D., Smith, S., & Cobbina, J. (2015). The effects of probation or parole agent relationship style and women offenders’ criminogenic needs on offenders’ responses to supervision interactions. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 42(4), 412-434.

Morash, M., Kashy, D., Smith, S., & Cobbina, J. (2016). The connection of probation/parole officer actions to women offenders’ recidivism. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 43(4), 506-524.

Rellahan, M. P. (2017). ‘WRAP’ initiative aims to help women offenders in Chester County. The Times Herald. Web.

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1. IvyPanda. "The Problem of Female Offenders’ Recidivism." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-problem-of-female-offenders-recidivism/.


IvyPanda. "The Problem of Female Offenders’ Recidivism." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-problem-of-female-offenders-recidivism/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "The Problem of Female Offenders’ Recidivism." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-problem-of-female-offenders-recidivism/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Problem of Female Offenders’ Recidivism'. 13 September.

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