Research Report Addressing Trauma and Victimization in Women’s Prisons
Trauma-Informed Victim Services and Programs for Incarcerated Women
Storm Ervin, Jahnavi Jagannath, Janine M. Zweig, Janeen Buck Willison, Kierra B Jones, Katy Maskolunas, Benjamin Cajarty, Chafica Agha
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Women are the fastest-growing incarcerated population in the United States. Despite this drastic increase, correctional institutions often lack awareness and understanding of the victimization that many—if not most—incarcerated women experience before incarceration (Bloom 2015). Many women bring past trauma into prison settings, where they often experience similar violence, abuse, and trauma. In 2017, the National Institute of Justice funded the Urban Institute—and its partners the Center for Effective Public Policy, the Correctional Leaders Association, and the National Center for Victims of Crime—to conduct a  national scan of practice to examine the extent to which correctional facilities provide services and programming that address incarcerated women’s prior and current trauma and victimization experiences. The scan of practice drew on data from semi-structured interviews with leaders in 41 state departments of corrections (DOCs), 15 women’s prisons using innovative and/or comprehensive approaches to address trauma, case studies of three women’s facilities and a national survey of state domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault (SA) coalitions. Analyses suggest wide variation in how DOCs address women’s past victimization and trauma with most DOCs relying on programming and partnerships with local victim services providers or other community-based organizations to address women’s trauma; few provide robust victim services to incarcerated women. We discuss these and other findings in the report along with the challenges DOCs face in addressing women’s prior trauma and victimization, and recommendations for how to make correctional facilities more trauma responsive.

Executive Summary

Research Areas Crime, justice, and safety
Tags Victims of crime Corrections Crime and justice analytics Women and girls Sexual violence Intimate partner violence
Policy Centers Justice Policy Center