Female Offenders’ Recidivism and Its Factors

Subject: Law
Pages: 18
Words: 4888
Reading time:
18 min
Study level: College

Proposal Timeline

Step Start Completion
Problem Identification January 18, 2017 January 24, 2017
Literature Review January 25, 2017 February 3, 2017
Data Collection February 4, 2017 March 16, 2017
Data Analysis March 17, 2017 April 2, 2017
Summarizing Findings April 3, 2017 April 11, 2017


Recidivism is a serious issue to be addressed as it has numerous adverse effects on society including economic losses, public health, and social concerns (increasing rate of unemployment, substance abuse, single-parent families, and so on). Female offenders’ recidivism received little attention previously as women constituted less than 10% of the number of American inmates, but the rate of this population in correctional facilities increased by 20% during the 2000s, which is an alarming trend (Golder et al., 2013). Moreover, it has been estimated that approximately half of these females reenter the system. Golder et al. (2013) also stress that the vast majority of females under the supervision of parole/probation officers have a substance abuse disorder. All these facts suggest that the existing parole/probation programs are not efficient.

It has been acknowledged that social ties are influential factors affecting females’ recidivism (Barrick, Lattimore, & Visher, 2014). These ties are associated with the relationships with family members, community, and parole/probation officers. At the same time, Morash, Kashy, Smith, and Cobbina (2016) claim that there is an indirect link between parole/probation officers’ behaviors and attitudes and female offenders’ recidivism. For instance, parole/probation officers’ punitive leadership style results in the development of depressive symptoms in female offenders. Therefore, it is critical to explore major stakeholders’ views on the matter.

In this research, qualitative research methods will be used (survey research). The focus of this study is the analysis of female offenders’ and parole/probation officers’ perspectives concerning their interactions. The implications of the research are manifold as they can reveal drawbacks in parole/probation programs, needs and wants of the major stakeholders, and possible ways to improve the programs.

Problem Statement

The research problem of this study can be formulated as follows: certain behaviors and attitudes of parole/probation officers may have a significant effect on female offenders’ recidivism. It is noteworthy that the perspectives of female offenders and parole/probation officers will be considered. The researcher will examine former inmates’ needs, wants, fears, and concerns, as well as reasons behind parole/probation officers’ behaviors, the way they evaluate their behavior and leadership styles, concerns, and expectations. The data mentioned above may help identify some flaws in parole/probation programs and contribute to the development of cost-effective programs.

The probation/parole office at Tutwiler Prison (Wetumpka, AL) will be addressed. The prison has a capacity to accommodate 700 inmates. As seen from the data available, around 60% of inmates tend to have substance abuse disorders (Golder et al., 2013). Therefore, the target population is approximately 400 people. Since the proposed study will be qualitative, the sample will include approximately 40 female offenders. The researcher will request permission to examine records of offenders receiving parole/probation treatment during the past 12 months and parole/probation officers with a working experience of, at least, 18 months. The study subjects will be female offenders (aged between 18 and 55) who have participated in a substance abuse treatment program and have taken part in a parole/probation treatment program within the past 12 months. As for parole probation officers, the sample will include approximately 4 people. Parole/probation officers working in the field for at least 18 months and who have supervised at least one female offender with the characteristics mentioned above will be recruited. Probability sampling (simple random sampling) will be used to collect the data.

Literature Review

Many studies concerning female offenders’ recidivism are associated with the factors affecting these individuals’ behaviors after their release. It is noteworthy that since female recidivism has acquired researchers’ attention quite recently, researchers use the frameworks developed within the terrain of male offenders’ recidivism (Greiner, Law, & Brown, 2015). Greiner et al. (2015) state that primary factors that have an influence on female offenders’ recidivism include substance abuse, weak social bonds, unemployment, and the lack of education and skills, and so on. It has been found that these factors affect women offenders in different ways.

Substance abuse is seen as one of the most influential factors associated with recidivism. It has been estimated that 58% of females who are under the supervision of a parole/probation officer use illicit drugs (Golder et al., 2013). Golder et al. (2013) found that women on parole were less likely to use illicit substances as compared to females on probation. Rellahan (2017) the majority of former inmates tend to be victims of violence (domestic, sexual, and so on) during some (usually prolonged) periods of their life. This exposure to violence is one of the factors contributing to these women’s substance abuse disorders and behaviors. Makarios, Steiner, and Travis (2012) claim that female offenders taking part in a substance abuse treatment program are unlikely to re-offend. The researchers emphasize that the effectiveness of these programs is mainly associated with the approach employed as these programs imply psychological support, training, assistance, and so on (Makarios et al., 2012). Therefore, the researchers acknowledge that social ties have a positive effect on female offenders’ behavior.

Apart from substance abuse, the lack of strong social ties often contributes to female offenders’ recidivism. Barrick et al. (2014) note that this factor is more influential for female offenders rather than male offenders. The researchers identified family ties as the most relevant social bonds that affected former female inmates’ behavior. Greiner et al. (2015) also revealed a strong negative correlation between family ties and women offenders’ recidivism. Makarios et al. (2012) state that family ties are central as the use of these bonds in various programs for former inmates has proved to be effective. Attachment is also regarded as an important factor that can prevent female offenders’ reentering. For instance, Vidal, Oudekerk, Reppucci, and Woolard (2013) note that female youth parolees’ attachment to parents (and parole officers) positively affects their behavior and negatively correlates with recidivism. Importantly, Scott, Grella, Dennis, and Funk (2014) found that a female offender’s child custody had a considerable impact on the woman’s behavior and made her vulnerable to reoffending.

Although family bonds are the most influential type of social bonds, other relationships have been researched as well. It has been found that relationships developed during supervision interactions between parole/probation officers and female offenders may affect the former inmates’ behaviors (Kashy, Smith, and Cobbina, 2015). As has been mentioned above, attachment towards parole officers developed in youth female parolees helps the latter avoid engagement in criminal behaviors (Vidal et al., 2013). Morash, Kashy, Smith, and Cobbina (2015) emphasize that parole/probation officers’ punitive methods contribute to women offenders’ recidivism. It is noteworthy that researchers have quite different views on this aspect.

For instance, Morash et al. (2016) argue that there is no direct link between female offenders’ recidivism and parole/probation officers’ behaviors. However, the researchers found indirect effects of parole/probation officers’ behavior that included the development of depressive symptoms and anxiety among the female offenders. These psychological issues are often associated with substance abuse, which, in turn, often leads to criminal behavior. Cornacchione et al. (2016) explored female offenders’ views on their interactions with parole/probation officers and found that the agents’ advice was helpful and prevented female offenders from engaging in criminal activity.

Rellahan (2017) states that there is no direct connection between recidivism and parole/probation officers’ behaviors, but the use of punitive leadership styles during correctional programs is not efficient. The researcher emphasizes that the use of the trauma-informed approach can significantly enhance the effectiveness of the programs as it has been associated with the reduction of the rate of female offenders’ recidivism. The trauma-informed approach is associated with the use of interventions that include discussions of women offenders’ needs, hopes, fears, and so on. Kubiak, Fedock, Kim, and Bybee (2016) evaluated the effectiveness of a trauma-based intervention. The researchers stressed that the program has proved to be effective as it is associated with strong short- and long-term outcomes while it consists of only 20 sessions (to compare, the conventional program involved in the study included 44 sessions) (Kubiak et al., 2016).

It is necessary to note that the majority of articles reviewed focus on female offenders’ views and perspectives while perspectives of parole/probation officers have received little attention. As for studies concerning parole/probation officers work and behavior, Viglione, Blasko, and Taxman (2017) state that many of these professionals do not employ evidence-based approaches (proactive referral practices and case management) due to the lack of organizational commitment. This study reveals an important aspect that needs further research as organizational behavior has a significant impact on the effectiveness of probation and parole supervision.

This literature review helps identify a number of gaps existing in the knowledge base concerning female recidivism. For instance, it has been found that substance abuse and social ties are influential factors contributing to women offenders’ re-entering. Nevertheless, little attention has been paid to the correlation between these two factors. It can be beneficial to identify the ways relationships with different people affect female offenders’ ability to address their substance abuse disorder. Former inmates’ perspectives are of particular interest. This population could describe the major barriers to the effective treatment of their substance abuse disorder or their reentering into society.

Besides, the exploration of relationships between parole/probation officers and female offenders has been rather one-sided. Researchers have concentrated on female offenders’ views, but it can be helpful to examine parole/probation officers’ views on the matter. It could be beneficial to analyze these stakeholders’ views with the focus on the reasons behind their behavior. The information mentioned above can potentially improve the existing parole/probation programs making them more cost-effective, which, in turn, may contribute to the decrease in the number of reentering female offenders.


Conceptualization and Operationalization

The proposed research will address the gap mentioned above. It is necessary to start with the conceptualization and operationalization of the major concepts. The central concepts are recidivism, substance abuse, and substance abuse treatment. In the proposed study, recidivism can be defined as a conviction following a treatment program completion. The operational definition of the term is as follows: recidivism can be measured as an instance and the number of convictions taking place within 12 months after the completion of a substance abuse treatment program. The number of arrests will not be taken into account. The conviction may take place within a year or more after the completion of the treatment program while the offenses that took place within the period mentioned above will be measured.

In this study, recidivism is regarded as reoffending within one year after a substance abuse program is completed. The operational definition of recidivism can be formulated as follows: recidivism is any conviction for an offense that took place within a year after the completion of a substance abuse treatment program. Substance abuse treatment is seen as a program aimed at helping people suffering from a substance abuse disorder overcome their health issues. As for the operationalization of this concept, substance abuse treatment can be defined as a program involving a set of procedures aimed at treating a substance abuse disorder a female offender agrees to participate in during probation treatment. Such details as components or duration of the program will also be analyzed. Substance abuse is referred to as the use of any illicit drug or drugs during the parole/probation supervision after the completion of a program involving substance abuse treatment. The operational definition is as follows: substance abuse is the positive result of a drug test or self-reporting of the use of illicit drugs, as well as incarceration on a drug use charge.

Other concepts that should be conceptualized and operationalized include punitive styles, negative attitudes, anxiety, depressive symptoms, personal bias, insufficient training, and overload. Punitive styles can be referred to as the focus on control, supervision, enforcement of rules with little attention to offenders’ needs (Miller, 2015). The operational definition of this concept is parole/probation officers’ remarks concerning the importance of offenders’ compliance with laws and regulations and the corresponding notes they add to offenders’ profiles. Negative attitudes can be defined as parole/probation officers’ focus on the negative aspects such as substance abuse, employment status, psychological state of women offenders, and so on. This concept can be operationalized as follows: negative attitudes include judging and the prevalence of notes concerning negative aspects in female offenders’ profiles. Some symptoms of depression and anxiety include mood swings, problems with concentrating, the loss of appetite, problems with controlling temper (Morash et al., 2015). As for the operationalization of the concept, female offenders can be asked to estimate the frequency of such symptoms.

Parole/probation officers’ personal bias can be referred to as the belief that all female offenders are prone to engaging in criminal behaviors and recidivism and do not make efforts to improve their lives. To operationalize this concept, it is possible to ask parole/probation officers to share their views on women offenders’ characters, reasons for their incarceration and recidivism, the reasons for failing probation and parole treatment. Insufficient training can be referred to as training programs (especially those associated with the provision of psychological support, leadership, and so on) and the gaps identified by parole/probation officers regarding their training. The operationalization of the concept includes the calculation of available training courses and initiatives, the rate of parole/probation officers’ participating in these initiatives, as well as officers’ evaluations of the programs’ effectiveness. Overload is referred to as the need to provide services to an excessive number of female offenders. To operationalize the concept, it is possible to calculate the number of supervised people, as well as tasks completed by parole/probation officers. It is also possible to compare this number with the number of cases supervised a year ago.

Hypotheses and Research Questions

The hypothesis of the proposed study can be formulated in the following way:

  1. Parole/probation officers’ negative attitudes and punitive styles contribute to the development of depressive symptoms and anxiety in female offenders.
  2. Effective relationships between parole/probation officers and female offenders help the latter avoid engagement in criminal activity.
  3. Parole/probation officers may display negative attitudes due to personal bias, overload, and/or insufficient training.

The research questions that will help address the hypothesis set are:

  1. How does parole/probation officers’ improper behavior influence women offenders’ recidivism?
  2. What are the reasons for such behaviors?

Sampling Method

As for the sampling method, probability sampling will be employed. Simple random sampling will be implemented. The records of a local parole/probation office will be reviewed and the population of female offenders who have participated in parole/probation treatment programs during the past 12 months aged between 18 and 55 will be reviewed. Women of the mentioned age with substance abuse history who completed a substance abuse treatment program will be included in the study. The randomization will be carried out with the help of software (Microsoft Excel). It is necessary to note that other variables (socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and so on) will not affect the recruitment process, but the researcher will mention correlations (if any) that will become apparent during the interviews. The chosen individuals will receive a phone call and will be offered to take part in the research. Those who reveal their interest will receive written consent forms via email. The forms can be sent to their mailbox or will be delivered to any other place (if necessary). When the form is signed, the researcher and the participant agree on the date and time of the interview.

Parole/probation officers will be chosen via simple random sampling as well. The records concerning the number of parole/probation officers working with female offenders will be reviewed. The eligible parole/probation officers will be those who have supervised at least one female offender who has completed a substance abuse treatment program. An important variable is the work experience, parole/probation officers who have worked for at least 18 months will be recruited. The parole/officers’ gender will also be a variable as officers’ gender may affect the way former inmates perceive them. For instance, some female offenders may have certain psychological issues associated with interactions with males. Since interactions between parole/probation officers and women offenders, officers’ gender will be under analysis. No other variables (age, ethnicity) are relevant to this study. The chosen parole/probation officers will be contacted via phones, and the written consent forms will be sent in any convenient way mentioned by the officer. When the form is signed, the date and time of the interview will be agreed upon. The necessary permissions from the parole/probation office will be obtained. As has been mentioned above, approximately four parole/probation officers and 40 female offenders will take part in the analysis. The sample size is appropriate as the focus is on former inmates of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.

Research Design

Since the focus is on people’s perspectives, qualitative data will be collected and analyzed. The cross-sectional design is appropriate for this study as a particular group of people at a particular point in time is under research. The survey research will be the major approach used to address the research questions. This research design enables the researcher to elicit the qualitative data necessary to understand the factors affecting the efficiency of certain correctional programs. The reasons for some behaviors can also be revealed through the analysis of qualitative data.

Data Collection

The major data collection method of the proposed study is the interview. Semi-structured interviews will be used as they allow the researcher to elicit as many details as possible. The researcher has a set of prepared questions, but the participants’ answers may be associated with an area that has been neglected or underestimated by the researcher. It is vital to focus on the participants’ inclinations, needs, and wants, so questions can be shaped by the participants’ answers. Besides, this type of interview is very similar to a conversation, so it will be easier for the researcher to create the necessary atmosphere that will encourage the participants to be sincere and detailed. The interviews will be recorded with permission from the participants. If a participant does not want to have the interview recorded, the researcher will take notes.

Moreover, it is critical to encourage the participants to share their ideas on issues that can be quite sensitive. Therefore, paraphrasing and certain changes in the focus of the question can help achieve this goal. The questions concerning female offenders’ perspectives will include these women’s attitudes towards the parole/probation program, the relationships with the parole/probation officer, particular negative (if any) experiences, their psychological state (the focus will be on depressive and anxiety symptoms if any), the tie (if any) between the officers’ behavior and the females’ decisions regarding their involvement in criminal activities. The questions used during the interviews with parole/probation officers will include these people’s views on their leadership style (its effectiveness), the efficiency of the parole/probation program, prospects of the female offenders supervised, general views of offenders (their characteristic features, reasons for criminal behavior, and so on), some peculiarities of work (workload, available training), and so on.

Data Analysis and Presentation

The general approach that will be proposed to analyze the qualitative data collected will be inductive. The inductive approach is associated with the exploration of a phenomenon from a different perspective (Creswell, 2014). Therefore, although the interactions between women offenders and parole/probation officers have received certain attention, the major focus has been on the offenders’ attitudes and outcomes. The proposed study will examine the perspectives of female offenders and parole/probation officers. Content analysis will be employed. The participants will be interviewed, and the interview transcripts will be analyzed interpretively. The researcher will describe some peculiarities of the interactions and try to explain the reasons for such peculiarities as well as possible outcomes of the interactions for both offenders and officers.

It is possible to disseminate the findings of the proposed research in a number of ways. The findings can enrich the knowledge base as an academic paper can be developed. The paper can be published in a peer-reviewed article. However, to disseminate the findings of this study, it is also possible to develop a report. The report will include all the major details of a peer-reviewed article including literature review, background, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and reference list. However, in spite of the use of the academic format, the report will be written for practitioners (officers) rather than researchers. The report will include an extensive number of visuals to help the reader grasp all the major details. The most detailed sections will be results and discussion. The report will also include recommendations section. This part will contain a set of particular recommendations that can help parole/probation officers improve their work. The report will be specifically valuable for administrators of correctional facilities.

The participants’ accounts will be transcribed with the help of online software. The data will be analyzed manually and with the help of software. First, the researcher will code the data collected. The focus will be on the most recurrent themes associated with the participants’ views on their interactions. The codes and themes identified will be inserted into a Microsoft Excel file for further analysis. Percentages may be used as a statistical tool as it is important to analyze the frequency of themes’ occurrence. Some charts will also be developed to help the researcher (and later, the reader) to visualize the findings. To ensure the reliability of the data analysis, the researcher will use data analysis software available online. QDA Miner Lite will be used to check the correctness of codes and themes identified. This tool can help with the visualization of the data. The software helps in creating charts and graphs.

At this point, it is necessary to add that statistical tools will be used to describe some characteristics of the participants. For example, the mean age of the participants and parole/probation officers will be provided. The percentage of people pertaining to different ethnic groups will also be given although ethnicity will not be taken into account when choosing participants. To present the data, it is possible to use a pie chart, which will explicitly reveal the prevalence of some ethnic groups (if any). The data mentioned above can help the researcher identify possible correlations, and links between people’s characteristics and their ideas. The data can also be important for the development of further research.

To ensure the reliability and validity of the study, the researcher will resort to peer examination and member checking. Creswell (2014) states that member checking can help ensure the correctness of coding and theming. The codes and themes that are identified by peers and the software mentioned above will be included in the study. As for member checking, this strategy can help the researcher eliminate possible bias. The researcher provides transcribed interviews with codes and themes identified to the corresponding participants. The participants (who agree to take part in member checking) check whether their words were interpreted correctly. The consent forms will include the request to participate in member checking.

Organizational Behavior

As has been mentioned above, organizational behavior has a considerable impact on parole/probation officers’ behavior, which, in turn, affects female offenders’ recidivism. This study will explore the way organizational behavior influences parole/probation officers’ behavior and their interaction with female offenders. Volkema (2010) identifies four concepts of organizational behavior and management. These concepts include individual / collective, differentiation / integration, centralization / decentralization, and linear / nonlinear. As has been mentioned above, the lack of organizational commitment is closely related to parole/probation officers’ behavioral patterns. Therefore, individual / collective and centralization / decentralization concepts will be central to this study. It is essential to understand the reasons for the lack of organizational commitment (and the focus on the individual principle rather than the collective one). The distribution of power and control within correctional facilities can help in assessing parole/probation officers’ behaviors (Volkema, 2010).

Apart from paying attention to the concept of organizational behavior when collecting and analyzing data, it is essential to take into account the way this aspect is related to the proposed study setting. Clearly, organizational culture is likely to have an impact on the way parole/probation officers will respond to questions and even the extent to which these professionals will be willing to participate. It is possible to assume that parole/probation officers are likely to reveal their commitment to organizational values, goals, and management practices. At that, there are chances that these professionals will criticize the distribution of power and control within the organization as they might need more freedom to make decisions as female offenders often have different backgrounds, needs, and goals. To ensure effective data collection, it is possible to consider the implementation of the interviews outside parole/probation officers’ offices as this can help them share their views more freely. Besides, it is important to develop clear and precise questions concerning the effects of organizational values, goals, and management practices on parole/probation officers’ behavior. The questions will address such concepts as leadership, management, the use of the evidence-based approach. When analyzing data, it can be important to compare parole/probation officers’ views on these aspects. This comparison can help evaluate the existing organizational culture and the way it affects parole/probation officers.


Finally, it is important to make sure that the study is implemented in terms of the major ethical regulations. The proposed study will be characterized by confidentiality and privacy. First, the participants will be contacted via phone, and the written consent forms will be delivered to them in the way they will prefer. Although the administration of the center will be aware of the implementation of the study, the participants will be chosen randomly, which will make it difficult to identify exact people who will take part in the research. Additionally, the participants will receive information concerning their rights as to participating in a study. The information will be included in the written consent form. The form will cover such aspects related to participants’ rights as confidentiality and privacy as well as possible withdrawal from the study at any point. It is preferable to hold interviews in a place outside the parole/probation agents’ offices, which can ensure the confidentiality and privacy of both female offenders and parole/probation officers. It is noteworthy that the written consent form will also include the most relevant data concerning the study.

One of the basic rights of any study participants involves the full knowledge of certain details of the study. They should understand the benefits of the study as well as possible negative effects and hazards associated with their participation. The participants’ personal information, as well as the transcripts, will be stored on the personal computer that has the necessary security software. The participants’ personal information (names, contact details) will not be withheld to any third parties. Code names will be used to refer to particular participants during the data analysis. The use of code names will ensure the participants’ anonymity as even the researcher will be unaware of the identity of the participants while analyzing the interview transcripts. Although female offenders suffering or who have suffered from a substance abuse disorder can be regarded as a vulnerable population, the participants will be informed about the potential benefits of the study. This information can encourage them to share their ideas freely. Of course, all the questions will be clear, unbiased, and characterized by a positive attitude and empathy. The interviews will also be characterized by the proper atmosphere (the researcher will try to develop rapport and trustful relationships with the participants). The principles of ethical research (honesty, carefulness, and objectivity) will also be followed.


In conclusion, it is necessary to note that female offenders’ recidivism is a serious issue to be addressed as it is associated with financial losses for the government (correctional facilities overload, cost-ineffective correctional programs, unemployment), social imbalances within communities (unemployment, inequality), and personal tragedies (motherless children). It has been found that social ties are some of the most influential factors’ affecting female offenders’ behavior. Parole/probation officers are also a part of the social network female offenders find themselves in. It has been acknowledged that parole/probation officers’ behavior and attitudes affect female offenders’ decisions concerning their engagement in criminal activity and decisions concerning substance use. However, the studies associated with this correlation are mainly quantitative although it is essential to understand particular perspectives and reasons behind the behaviors mentioned above.

The proposed research will involve interviewing female offenders and parole/probation officers. It will last four months and will include such stages as problem identification, literature review, data collection, data analysis, and summarizing findings. At the end of the study, particular themes and areas of concern will be outlined. The study will reveal people’s evaluations of parole/probation programs.

This research will have diverse implications. First, it will unveil some shortcomings of parole/probation programs. The proposed study will also help identify particular expectations, needs, and concerns of the major stakeholders (female offenders and parole/probation officers). Importantly, the researcher will expand the knowledge base on the matter as parole/probation officers’ perspectives will be taken into account. This research may potentially have positive effects on the development of the entire society as female offenders will effectively re-integrate. Finally, the study may become a starting point for further investigation as there are still many gaps to be filled.


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