Women’s Services

The Challenge

Within the overall population involved in the criminal justice system, women are the fastest growing subgroup.1 Even with this growth, women remain a small minority within a justice population that is overwhelmingly male.2 Compared to the men involved in the justice system, justice-involved women experience higher rates of mental illness, substance abuse, and trauma.3 They also have high rates of past experiences of sexual and physical abuse. Correctional policies and practices that fail to respond to women’s gender-specific risks and needs can trigger trauma-related symptoms, delay or prevent rehabilitation, and increase risk of recidivism.4 Further, because many justice-involved women have children, their incarceration can have devastating collateral effects for dependents.5

Our Approach

CASES’ largest women’s program is Women’s Diversion Services (WDS), a gender-responsive alternative to incarceration designed specifically for women with significant behavioral health needs and a history of frequent misdemeanor arrests. Operated within Manhattan START, WDS helps high-need justice-involved women to avoid jail and fulfill their obligation to the court by engaging in community-based treatment and services that can help them address the underlying causes of criminal involvement. The program also includes evidence-based approaches such as Seeking Safety, a cognitive-behavioral therapy shown to help justice-involved women attain safety from trauma and/or substance abuse. 

In addition to WDS, which annually diverts up to 150 women from jail, CASES’ other gender-responsive services include:

  • Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention: sexual health education workshops for justice-involved teens age 13-16 residing in the Bronx and Manhattan
  • Family Therapy: community-based family therapy to help justice-involved women with serious mental illness reconnect with their families
  • Women’s Health Services: integrated primary care services for justice-involved women (age 13 and above) who have mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse
  • Social Entrepreneurship: youth-led social enterprise that includes empowerment, leadership, and work-readiness training, provided in partnership with S.O.U.L. Sisters

Outcomes

CASES’ gender-responsive services annually help hundreds of justice-involved girls and women to avoid detention and incarceration; begin to achieve recovery from trauma, mental illness, and substance abuse; reconnect with their families; and reduce behaviors associated with recidivism. For many of the women we serve, our interventions mark the beginning of their long-term path to recovery.

For specific program information including outcomes, please see links below.

References

1 The Sentencing Project (2015, Nov.). Fact sheet: incarcerated women and girls. Washington, D.C.: The Sentencing Project. http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Incarcerated-Women-and-Girls.pdf ^

2 Ibid. ^

3 Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia (CSOSA). (2014, January). Statistics on women in the justice system. Washington, D.C.: CSOSA. http://www.csosa.gov/newsmedia/factsheets/statistics-on-women-offenders-2014.pdf ^

4 McCampbell, S.W. (2005). Gender-responsive strategies for women offenders. The gender-responsive strategies project: jail applications. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Corrections. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/static.nicic.gov/Library/020417.pdf ^

5 Ibid. ^

6 James, D.J. & Glaze, L.E. (2006, Sept.). Mental health problems of prison and jail inmates. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/mhppji.pdf