Incarcerated women have a much more extensive history of early sexual abuse than women in the general public.
Gender-specific mental and behavioral health programming is not only the humane approach to corrections; it has a positive affect on post-release success, reducing recidivism.
The National Institute of Corrections has collaborated with researchers at the University of Cincinnati since 1999 to determine which factors are important to risk management for female offenders.
Early childhood abuse and sexual abuse were found to predict recidivism rates across all jurisdictions in multiple states.
Symptoms of unresolved childhood trauma affect current functionality. In Texas, women in two state prisons participated in a validated self-report survey in 2014. The Trauma Symptoms Checklist – 40 (TSC-40) measured symptoms related to post traumatic stress and sexual abuse, such as depression, anxiety, sexual trauma, and dissociation. The study found significant positive correlations between current trauma symptoms and frequency of childhood trauma, using self-report scores from the Adverse Childhood Events study.
The prevalence of current trauma symptoms among female prison populations has yet failed to inform rehabilitation programming in the state, perhaps due to a lack of research documenting the symptoms’ affect on crime. In the 2014 Texas study, the severity of the women’s offense of record was recorded as low, medium, high, or highest level, according to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole Severity Rankings. The severity of crime was found to be consistently higher when the trauma scores from the TSC-40 were higher. This would indicate a direct correlation of trauma to crime . More research is needed in this area, but clearly mental health interventions are a criminal justice concern.
Portal Houston’s award-winning grief recovery program called Oil of Joy Instead of Morning has been a landmark in programming across Texas since 2000. Other programs such as Possessing the Land, and Glory Revealed conducted in Harris County Jail, employ cognitive restructuring to change the thinking that initiates through marginalization, verbal, sexual, and physical abuse. This year, Portal Houston will launch Safe To Speak, a trauma recovery curriculum based on Bibliotherapy, group exercises, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy principles applied in small group.
The program restores the identity of abused women and gives them back their voice.