In This Article Counseling Female Offenders

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Manuals and Guides
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Rationale for Gender-Specific Treatment

Related Articles about

Forthcoming Articles


Social Work Counseling Female Offenders
Katherine van Wormer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 August 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0056


Gender-specific programming is viewed as essential to effective work with girls and women in the criminal justice system. Gender-specific programming can be defined as treatment that is especially designed to meet the needs of persons based on biological, psychological, and social needs unique to one’s gender. Regarding female offenders, the three strongest arguments for gender specific programming are women’s unique biology, cultural role expectations and vulnerabilities, and gendered pathways into crime. This entry identifies resources that pertain to working with girls and women who are in the criminal justice system, some confined in institutions, others participating in community correctional programs. There are few books and articles specific to social work in this specialized field, and most of the material derives from the criminal justice literature. Although there is extensive literature on recommended treatment for female offenders, the gap between theory and practice is large. Much of the literature in this entry derives from Canadian and British sources—a fact reflective of the research being done in progressive correctional counseling—and concerns treatment innovations in the system and writings on deficiencies in the treatment. That girls and women in trouble with the law have special needs is a major theme of the literature.

General Overviews

Bloom, et al. 2004 has helped revolutionize the concepts pertaining to the female offender even though practice has not caught up with the theory. The gender-responsive strategies articulated by these writers have led to endorsement by the federal government of gender-specific strategies in the treatment of girls and women in the system. Failinger 2006 is unique in showing how restorative justice strategies are consistent with women’s concern with restoring relationships. The Bureau of Justice Statistics 2000 provides an empirical overview of female offender characteristics, while the National Institute of Corrections directs users to information that provides overviews and details on the many areas of study and research relevant to female offenders. Blanchette and Brown 2006 explores the role of a woman’s family, and Lart, et al. 2008 concludes that more research on treatment effectiveness is needed.

  • Blanchette, K., and S. Brown. 2006. Gender-informed correctional practice: Integrating gender neutral and gender-specific/responsive paradigms. Women, Girls, and Criminal Justice 7.4: 57–64.

    E-mail Citation »

    Discusses family contact as a variable that is particularly salient for predictions about a woman’s conduct in the institution and her risk of reoffending.

  • Bloom, Barbara, Barbara Owen, and Stephanie Covington. 2004. Women offenders and the gendered effects of public policy. Review of Policy Research 21.1: 31–48.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1541-1338.2004.00056.xE-mail Citation »

    Presents a realistic picture of how public policy fails to meet the specific needs of women offenders. Accordingly this is good background material for the context of correctional counseling.

  • Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice. 2000. Women offenders. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice.

    E-mail Citation »

    Although outdated, this government report organizes statistics on female criminality to provide a summary of characteristics of the female offender.

  • Failinger, Marie A. 2006. Lessons unlearned: Women offenders, the ethics of care, and the promise of restorative justice. Fordham Urban Law Journal 33.2: 487–526.

    E-mail Citation »

    The focus here is on the role of relationships in the making of a female offender. Provides an overview of how women often get involved in crime through their relationships with criminal men.

  • Lart, Rachel, Christina Pantazis, Simon Pemberton, William Turner, and Celia Almeida. 2008. Interventions aimed at reducing re-offending in female offenders: A rapid evidence assessment. London: Ministry of Justice.

    E-mail Citation »

    This 78-page document provides an extensive summary of research findings concerning treatment interventions aimed at targeting antisocial attitudes and anger, self control, family processes (for example, affection and supervision), general educational needs, and peer groups associated with reductions in women’s offending. Available online.

  • National Institute of Corrections. Corrections Community.

    E-mail Citation »

    Includes extensive links to matters pertaining to female offenders.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.