Prisoner numbers in Australia are at a ten year high with over half of all prisoners incarcerated for offences involving violence. While women comprise a small (compared with men), but rapidly growing segment of the overall prisoner population, over 40% of women in 2014 were incarcerated for violent offences. Among Aboriginal women, 57% were incarcerated for violence, compared with 33% for non-Aboriginal women.
Violent women offenders pose significant challenges to custodial authorities and determining how to best respond is critical. The treatment and rehabilitative needs of incarcerated women have historically been sidelined to those of men. Despite research showing distinctions between female and male offenders, which are important for their rehabilitation, targeted violence prevention programs designed specifically for women are lacking.
This study is a collaboration between leading Australian and United States researchers involving a trial of a gender-specific and trauma-informed intervention (Beyond Violence) developed for women convicted of violent offences that targets substance use, mental health (including PTSD) and violence. The study will implement and evaluate this innovative and intensive multi-component prison-based intervention among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women prisoners with histories of violence.
Preventing the imprisonment of Aboriginal women is important as these women are often the main carers of their own children, the children of other relatives, and extended family network members. If effective, substantial benefits will be forthcoming for individuals, their families and the community and, because it costs around $85,000 per year to keep an adult incarcerated, it would be highly cost-effective.