Female Offenders and Probation Officers’ Interactions

Proposal Timeline

Step Start Completion
Problem Identification January 18, 2017 January 24, 2017
Literature Review January 24, 2017 February 3, 2017
Data Collection February 1, 2017 February 18, 2017
Data Analysis February 18, 2017 February 25, 2017
Summarizing Findings February 25, 2017 March 4, 2017

Introduction

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. 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.

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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 correlation between parole/probation officers’ behaviors and attitudes and female offenders’ recidivism. 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, the 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.

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 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.

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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). Morash et al. (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 recidivism. However, the researchers found indirect outcomes of parole/probation officers’ behavior that included the development of depressive symptoms and anxiety. These psychological issues are often associated with substance abuse, which, in its turn, often leads to criminal behavior.

Rellahan (2017) also 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.

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 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 a 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 its turn, may contribute to the decrease in the number of reentering female offenders.

Methods

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 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 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 after her release. Such details as components or duration of the program will be disregarded for convenience. 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.

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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?

As for the sampling method, convenience sampling will be employed. Golder et al. (2013) recruited participants for their research near the local parole/probation offices and in some other ways. Similar strategies will be employed in the proposed study. The researcher will approach females near the local parole/probation office. The females will receive fliers with the most relevant information concerning the research (purpose, data collection methods, implications, the researcher’s contact details). Fliers will also be placed in several locations (bus stops, convenience stores, and organizations providing services to people suffering from a substance abuse disorder).

Parole/probation officers will receive an invitation to participate in the research that will be similar to the one provided to female offenders. All the necessary permissions from the involved locations will be obtained. Ten female offenders and five parole/probation officers will take part in this study. The eligible female offenders will be those who have completed a substance abuse treatment program and have been under the supervision of a parole/probation officer. Although their socioeconomic status will not be taken into account, it is possible to anticipate the participation of predominantly low-income individuals as female offenders often come from disadvantaged communities. The eligible parole/probation officers will be those who have supervised at least one female offender who has completed a substance abuse treatment program. It is necessary to note that other variables (gender, socioeconomic status, and so on) will not affect the recruitment process, but the researcher will mention correlations (if any) that will become apparent during the interviews.

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. Reasons behind some behaviors can also be revealed through the analysis of qualitative data.

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.

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, 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, some peculiarities of work (workload, available training), and so on.

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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 receive the fliers (or invitations) that contain contact details, which allows the participants to make sure that their employer or any other individual or organization is unaware of their participation. The participants’ personal information, as well as the transcripts, will be stored on a personal computer that has the necessary security software. The participants’ personal information (names, contact details) will not be withheld from any third parties. Code names will be used to refer to particular participants during the data analysis. 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.

Conclusion

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. Parle/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 ten weeks 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.

References

Barrick, K., Lattimore, P., & Visher, C. (2014). Reentering women: The impact of social ties on long-term recidivism. The Prison Journal, 94(3), 279-304.

Golder, S., Hall, M., Logan, T., Higgins, G., Dishon, A., Renn, T., & Winham, K. (2013). Substance use among victimized women on probation and parole. Substance Use & Misuse, 49(4), 435-447.

Greiner, L., Law, M., & Brown, S. (2015). Using dynamic factors to predict recidivism among women. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 42(5), 457-480.

Makarios, M., Steiner, B., Travis, L. F. (2012). Examining the predictors pf recidivism among men and women released from prison in Ohio. In M. Stohr, A. Walsh, & C. Hemmens (Eds.), Corrections: A text/reader (pp. 285-297). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Morash, M., Kashy, D., Smith, S., & Cobbina, J. (2015). The effects of probation or parole agent relationship style and women offenders’ criminogenic needs on offenders’ responses to supervision interactions. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 42(4), 412-434.

Morash, M., Kashy, D., Smith, S., & Cobbina, J. (2016). The connection of probation/parole officer actions to women offenders’ recidivism. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 43(4), 506-524.

Rellahan, M. P. (2017). ‘WRAP’ initiative aims to help women offenders in Chester County. The Times Herald. Web.

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