This document discusses the gender appropriateness of the Therapeutic Community (TC) program for female substance abuse offenders.
The TC programs are designed to help clients recognize and confront their patterns of substance abuse and criminality, and have been successful in reducing recidivism among substance abuse offenders. They were designed for male substance abusers, but given the research on gender differences and the increase in female offenders, it is necessary to evaluate whether the program is appropriate for female offenders. Findings are based on over 100 hours of observation and staff interviews at TC programs throughout Delaware. The TC programs are run within the Department of Corrections (DOC) and various correctional institutions. More frequent dialogue is needed between the TC directors and DOC to develop awareness of the program, its needs, and its relationship to the correctional institutions. More funding is needed for women inmates. Community services need to be expanded to help transition clients back into society. More mental health providers should be available for inmates with histories of abuse. Separate facilities for women should be established so that a safe environment can be provided for them. The house structure and house rules need to be reviewed so that a clear therapeutic benefit can be established for the hierarchy and job functions. TC staff need to monitor how clients carry out these responsibilities and to remove clients who may abuse these positions of responsibility. More information should be provided in the areas of sexual abuse and domestic violence, spirituality, health issues for women, and job training. General information on substance abuse should be tailored specifically for either a female or male audience. The TC staff consists of dedicated, hardworking individuals who are committed to assisting their clients, but they are in less-than-optimal conditions, which include lack of space, lack of privacy, and continuous changes as a part of their daily work. There should be more training for staff, and computers should be provided to help them handle the record keeping and client files. More staff should be hired with training in social work, psychology, and communication skills.