In the last decade, the numbers of females incarcerated has tripled, making women the most rapidly growing group of offenders in the United States. In this study, our team of UCLA and UCSF researchers plan to utilize our successful community participatory approach to engage Homeless Female Offenders (HFOs) who are participants of Residential Drug Treatment (RDT) programs, to assess the impact of a gender-sensitive criminogenic needs - focused intervention program, Female Ex-Offender Mentoring in Care (FEM-CARE), designed to reduce and or prevent relapse to drug use, recidivism, and eliminate or prolong number of days to re-incarceration. This study is based upon our team's history of more than two decades of research promoting theoretically-based, culturally-sensitive nurse-led interventions that are enriched with criminal justice theoretical guidance with homeless population which have led to significant reductions in recidivism, drug and alcohol use among homeless women and men, many of whom have had a history of incarceration.
In the last decade, the numbers of incarcerated females has tripled, making women the most rapidly growing group of offenders in the United States. When compared to incarcerated males, female offenders have a higher rate of being sentenced for drug crimes;moreover, they are often injection drug users (IDUs), have sexual partners who are IDUs, and are often forced into the sex trade for survival. As many as 50 percent of female offenders report physical and/or sexual abuse;further, traumatic abuse, chronic emotional distress, and internalized stigma resulting from being a felon and a drug-user, have a profound effect on the women's self-esteem, leading to feelings of hopelessness and depression, delayed recovery and reintegration, increased risky behaviors, and health concerns. Not surprisingly, women who have been incarcerated are nearly twice as likely to experience mental illness compared with non-offending women;further, 44 percent recidivate within a year due to possession of a controlled substance. In particular, among homeless female offenders (HFOs), both parolees and probationers report ongoing challenges for successful re-entry. These include unstable housing, disorganized lives, unemployment, and limited access to health and social services. While the Los Angeles County Department of Probation has provided guidance for successful programs in its California Blueprint Master Plan for Female Offenders, the suggested strategies of enhancing empowerment, positive coping, and job skills, and providing peer-mentored approaches have not yet been implemented or evaluated. In Phase I of this R34, our team of University of California Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Irvine researchers plan to utilize our successful community participatory approaches to refine a gender-sensitive criminogenic needs - focused intervention program, Female Ex-Offender Mentoring in Care (FEM-CARE), with the help of a community advisory board, composed of HFOs and addiction staff;and finalize strategies which will be validated by focus group sessions with HFOs. In Phase II, we will randomize 130 HFOs participating in one of two residential drug treatment programs to assess the impact of the FEM-CARE or a Health Promotion control program on reduction of drug and alcohol use and recidivism. This study is based upon our team's history of promoting theoretically-based, culturally- sensitive nurse-led interventions that are enriched with criminal justice theoretical perspectives, and have resulted in significant reductions in drug and alcohol use among homeless persons, many of whom have had a history of incarceration. Our most recent successes in engaging male parolees in nurse-supported peer mentorship, our team's expertise in enhancing stigma reduction among vulnerable women, and our criminal justice experts have informed this study. Finally, recent formative research with HFOs has revealed a desire for peer role models to support and enhance knowledge of and access to healthcare, promote positive coping, stable housing, and job skills, and to reduce stigma and depressed mood;all of these factors can result in novel programs designed to prevent drug and alcohol use and reduce recidivism. This foundation and strong community support garnered has led to the design of our proposed intervention program.