Improving Outcomes for Women in the Criminal Justice System

March 29, 2022

In recent decades, the number of women involved in the criminal justice system, including prisons, jails, and community corrections, has expanded substantially. Although men continue to account for the majority of our country’s incarcerated population, the number of women in prison has increased by more than 700 percent since 1980.

Women’s pathways to and needs within the justice system are often different from those of men. Unfortunately, most justice policies and practices have historically not been designed with women in mind. They often fail to address the distinct issues that contribute to many women being involved in the system, including domestic violence and abuse, trauma, poverty, mental illnesses, and substance use disorders.

To be effective, reduce recidivism, and ultimately improve outcomes for all people, criminal justice system responses should be tailored to account for these gender differences. Fortunately, the field is increasingly recognizing the importance of gender-responsive risk and needs assessment, programming, and practices.

During Women’s History Month, we’ve compiled resources below from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, as well as external partners and organizations, that can help jurisdictions better adapt their justice and behavioral health programs to meet the needs of women.


  1. Adopting a Gender-Responsive Approach for Women in the Justice System: This guide focuses on six fundamental issues that can help program providers in behavioral health and criminal justice settings across the country develop gender-responsive programs.


  1. Enhancing Program Success and Sustainability for Women in the Justice System: Targeting System Change Strategies: This webinar details strategies to create and sustain gender-responsive services in the criminal justice system.


  1. Women and Girls in the Justice System: This special feature from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs includes publications, training and technical assistance, and other federal or federally sponsored resources.


  1. National Resource Center on Justice-Involved Women: This organization provides gender-responsive and trauma-informed resources for criminal justice stakeholders, as well as research and information for the field related to women involved in the justice system.


  1. Incarcerated Women and Girls: This publication from The Sentencing Project details key information and statistics regarding incarcerated women.


  1. National Directory of Programs for Women with Criminal Justice Involvement: This directory from the National Institute of Corrections lists programs for women involved in the justice system, covering issues such as parenting, substance use, and behavioral health programs.

About the author

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Former Content Development Specialist, Communications and External Affairs
Amelia Vorpahl led the writing and strategic development of an array of content that advances the CSG Justice Center's goals, including policy reports, fact sheets, interactive tools, and web content. Before joining the CSG Justice Center, Amelia worked on the
policy and communications teams of several major advocacy organizations. In her previous role as senior communications manager at Oceana, Amelia led media outreach, content creation, and messaging strategy for various regional and federal campaigns. Amelia holds a BA in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and an MPA from the University of Texas at Austin.
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