Distinctions With a Difference: Developing Gender-Appropriate Policy for Women in the Justice System

Barbara Owen, California State University - Fresno
Barbara Bloom, Sonoma State University
Stephanie Covington, Center for Gender and Justice

This paper discusses preliminary findings from a national policy study, "Gender-Responsive Research, Practice, and Guiding Principles for Women Offenders" in making the case for gender-appropriate policy and practice. The evidence for this approach is drawn from focus groups, literature review and policy analyses. Briefly summarizing the critical distinctions between female and male offenders, the paper then reviews the implications of gender across specific aspects of correctional policy and practice. The gender-based differences that affect behavioral outcomes of women offenders and the ability of the system to meet their needs and achieve its goals are described. The costs of gender-neutral approaches and legal implications are also discussed. The paper concludes in suggesting that systems should examine the ways in which gender-appropriate elements can be incorporated into policy in order to improve both system and individual outcomes in managing and supervising female offenders.

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Updated 05/20/2006