Assessing and Treating Women Offenders

  • Kelly TaylorEmail author
  • Donna McDonagh
  • Kelley Blanchette


Worldwide, the criminal justice system serves predominately male offenders, with women offenders representing a small minority of approximately 2–10% of the incarcerated population (Carson and Anderson, Prisoners in 2015, Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2016; Correctional Service of Canada, Women offenders,, 2017; Moloney et al., Public Health, 123:426–430, 2009). However, the number of women incarcerated has steadily increased over the past two decades and women offenders represent the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population (Moloney et al., Public Health, 123:426–430, 2009). The increasing presence of women in the criminal justice system continues to pose significant challenges in identifying and responding appropriately to the specific manifestations of risk and needs of women offenders. This chapter will provide a brief overview of women’s criminality, relative to that of men, as well as the frequency and prevalence of mental disorder in female offender populations, with some comparative statistics for male offenders and for women in general (non-offenders). Some central theoretical models will be outlined as they pertain to women’s behaviour, and in particular to women’s criminal offending. There are some important gender-informed considerations in diagnosis and assessment of mental disorder for women offenders; these will be discussed as well. Assessment and interventions for women in the criminal justice system should be evidence-based and gender-informed; the research in this area is also discussed, including recommendations for good correctional practice for work with women. Finally, the chapter will conclude with a short section on technology and innovation, and consideration of future implications.


Female offenders Criminal justice Mental health Theory Diagnosis Assessment Treatment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelly Taylor
    • 1
    Email author
  • Donna McDonagh
    • 2
  • Kelley Blanchette
    • 3
  1. 1.Reintegration Programs DivisionCorrectional Services CanadaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Private PracticeOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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