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After Incarceration: A Guide to Helping Women Reenter the Community

Posted 7/16/2020 (updated 9/2/2021)

The information in this document was guided by the vision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health and lessons learned from a 3-year reentry enhancement project conducted across 3 different reentry organizations. The participating pilot sites were the Resonance Center for Women, Inc., (Tulsa, Oklahoma), the College and Community Fellowship (New York, New York), and the Institute for Health and Recovery (Cambridge, Massachusetts). Using the information compiled through this project, this guide was created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation.

Gender-responsive criminal justice approaches acknowledge women’s unique pathways into and out of the criminal justice system. These approaches address social factors such as poverty, race, class, gender inequality, and culture.6,7 The promising practices presented here align with a theoretical framework, created by Bloom, Owens, and Covington, that explains the complex dimensions of a woman’s experience when reentering the community following incarceration. This framework includes the following:

  • Pathways that lead to women’s justice involvement
  • Racial and ethnic disparities and the intersectionality of race and gender
  • Women’s development and relational approach
  • Trauma prevalence and its effects on women
  • Substance use disorders and their effects on women

The steps presented in this guide align with this organizing framework to ensure a comprehensive approach to women’s needs during reentry. A compliment to this guide is the SAMHSA publication Principles of Community-based Behavioral Health Services for Justice-involved Individuals: A Research-based Guide (below). This publication can provide more overarching guidance on what key principles should guide the work of community-based practitioners serving individuals involved with the criminal justice system.

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sma19-5097.pdf (7.73 MB)