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Adopting a Gender-Responsive Approach for Women in the Justice System: A Resource Guide

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2021
30 pages

This resource guide is intended for use in developing gender-responsive behavioral health policies and programs for women involved in the criminal justice system.


The intent of these resources is to assist criminal justice program planners in designing gender-responsive and trauma-informed policies, practices, and programs that are tailored to women’s distinctive gender-related histories, offending causes, and experiences in the criminal justice system. Among the common issues that have distinctively contributed to women’s behavioral health problems are victimization from domestic violence, childhood abuse, exploitation in romantic relationships, traumatic experiences, substance-use disorders, and mental illness. The resources provided in this guide focus on six topics considered fundamental to designing and implementing effective programs for women in the justice system. They are 1) foundational features of effective gender-responsive programs; 2) key research findings on the prevalent characteristics of women in the criminal justice system; 3) gender-responsive criminogenic risk and needs assessment; 4) gender-responsive case management; 5) gender-responsive programming; and 6) the selection of resources tailored to the needs of women in the justice system. Practical issues are addressed, such as managing referrals to a program, engaging participants, tailoring program dosage and intensity to a participant’s needs, being consistent and fair in responding to problem behaviors, and the collection and analysis of data that measure program and policy effectiveness.

Date Published: August 1, 2021