Female Offenders’ Recidivism Factors


Recidivism is a serious issue to be addressed. 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 American inmates. Still, this population’s rate 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 re-enter. Golder et al. (2013) also stress that the vast majority of females under parole/probation officers’ supervision 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 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). This study’s focus is the analysis of female offenders’ and parole/probations officers’ perspectives concerning their interactions. The research implications 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

This study’s research problem 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 and reasons behind parole/probation officers’ behaviors, the way they evaluate their behavior and leadership styles, interests, 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 influence female offenders’ recidivism include substance abuse, weak social bonds, unemployment, lack of education and skills, etc. 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 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 illegal substances than 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 factor 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 these programs’ effectiveness 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 than male offenders. The researchers identified family ties as the most important 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 these bonds in various programs for former inmates has proved to be effective. Attachment is also regarded as an essential factor that can prevent female offenders’ re-entering. 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 re-offending.

Although family bonds are the most influential type of social bonds, other relationships have been researched. 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 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 turn, often leads to criminal behavior. Cornacchione et al. (2016) explored female offenders’ views on their parole/probation officers’ opinions. They 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 programs’ effectiveness 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, etc. Kubiak, Fedock, Kim, and Bybee (2016) related to the effectiveness of a trauma-based intervention. The researchers stress that the program has proved to be useful as it is associated with strong short- and long-term outcomes. At the same time, 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 most articles reviewed focus on female offenders’ views and perspectives, while parole/probation officers’ attitudes 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 an evidence-based approach (proactive referral practices and case management) due to the lack organizational commitment. This study reveals an important aspect that needs further research as organizational behavior has a significant impact on probation and parole supervision effectiveness.

This literature review helps identify several 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 significant barriers to the effective treatment of their substance abuse disorder or their re-entering 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 help examine parole/probation officers’ views on the matter. It could be beneficial to analyze these stakeholders’ views focusing 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 re-entering 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 ideas are recidivism, substance abuse, and substance abuse treatment. In this study, recidivism is regarded as re-offending 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 completing a substance abuse treatment program. Substance abuse treatment is seen as a program to help 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 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 using 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 illicit drugs.

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 developing 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 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, 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 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, etc.) will not affect the recruitment process. Still, the researcher will mention correlations (if any) that will become apparent during the interviews.

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 certain correctional programs’ efficiency. The 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 the participants’ answers can shape questions. Besides, this type of interview is very similar to a conversation, so it will be easier for the researcher to create the necessary atmosphere to 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.

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 how 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 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 why 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 assess parole/probation officers’ behaviors.

Apart from paying attention to the concept of organizational behavior when collecting and analyzing data, it is essential to consider how this aspect is related to the proposed study setting. 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 implementing 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 ensure 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. 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 and 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 study details. They should understand the benefits of the study and the possible negative effects and hazards associated with their participation. The participants’ personal information and 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 participants’ identity 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 study’s potential benefits. 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).


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 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.


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1. LawBirdie. "Female Offenders’ Recidivism Factors." March 23, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/female-offenders-recidivism-factors/.


LawBirdie. "Female Offenders’ Recidivism Factors." March 23, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/female-offenders-recidivism-factors/.