A Theory of Female Prison Conduct

Cheryl Lero Jonson, Xavier University - Cincinnati
Jennifer L. Lux, University of Cincinnati - Main Campus
Mary K. Stohr, Washington State University

Conference title: Expanding the Core: Neglected Crimes, Groups, Causes and Policy Approaches


Many scholars agree that women offenders differ from their male counterparts not just in terms of behavior, but also in areas related to mental health, substance abuse, family, and medical concerns. Additionally, there is widespread agreement that characteristics and needs associated with institutional adjustment manifest themselves differently for women than for men. The purpose of this paper is to take stock of what is known about how females experience prison and adapt to life within it. More specifically, common risk factors for female offenders (e.g., substance abuse and mental health issues) are discussed in light of the unpredictable and difficult behaviors that can come from such high-risk areas of need. Finally, we conclude with a call for more research to better understand the prison experience for women and argue that future efforts be focused on better assessment processes and rehabilitation programs to manage and serve such a specialized population.