National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women Newsletter
The NRCJIW provides guidance and support to justice professionals – and promotes evidence-based, gender-responsive policies and practices – to reduce the number and improve the outcomes of women involved in the criminal justice system.
New NRCJIW Innovator: Alisha Saulsbury, Trauma, Addiction, Mental Health and Recovery (TAMAR)
TAMAR (Trauma, Addiction, Mental Health and Recovery) is a trauma-focused program for women that has been implemented in select Maryland detention centers.� The TAMAR program aims to provide appropriate services to trauma victims and break the cycle of substance abuse, arrest, and incarceration.� Participating women have been identified or self-identified as having a history of physical and/or sexual abuse and a recent treatment history for a mental health condition as well as a drug use/abuse disorder.� A joint effort of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Maryland Correctional Administrators Association, local detection centers, and a group of core services agencies, TAMAR began in three detention centers across the state of Maryland.� The program was developed in light of the recognition that many women in the criminal justice system have histories of extensive trauma, and that such trauma continues to impact these women in negative ways.� TAMAR began in an effort to develop a custody environment for women that would lessen the likelihood of re-traumatization and assist individuals in finding the capacity to self-regulate.� The program is designed to help both the women and correctional officers to understand the significant impact of trauma and violence, and seeks to encourage interactions between staff and inmates that are respectful and non-harmful. Although only a recent emerging intervention in corrections, several states (including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Hawaii) have experienced positive results upon implementation of trauma-based principles and interventions.
Interview with Alisha Saulsbury, Trauma Specialist for the Maryland Mid-Shore Region
Alisha Saulsbury, LCSW, is the Trauma Specialist for the Maryland Mid-Shore region.� Ms. Saulsbury administers the TAMAR program in the Maryland Mid-Shore area, and provides training around the country about how to implement and the benefits of the TAMAR program.�
Q:� When did the TAMAR program start?� How and why was it created?
The program began in the late 1990s.� We originally received a three year grant from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) after a study we conducted with the Maryland Mental Health Hygiene Association, Division of Special Populations, and the University of Maryland Department of Psychiatry.� The study revealed that recidivism rates with women in our criminal justice system were quite high, and we wanted to know why – and what could be done about it.� We hired staff to conduct clinical interviews in criminal justice facilities.� What we found were a lot of co-occurring disorders and self-medicating due to trauma.�
Q: What are the main components of the program?
We offer modules in the detention centers (see complete list in TAMAR program description above) and at times have been able to provide support when women return to the community.� The TAMAR program has been adapted in different ways around the country, but for our purposes we started the program for, and work only with women.� We offer a ninety-minute psycho-educational and psychodynamic group on a twice weekly basis.� Right now, we are running a ten-week program. Essentially we are working with women to help them to figure out how – when they become anxious and flooded – to help themselves to cope in a healthy way.� Trainers provide training for everyone in the facility – officers, clinical staff, kitchen workers – everyone needs to be trauma-informed in order to interact and work more effectively with women in the facilities.�
Q:� What has been surprising to you as you have undertaken this work?
In my own experience, I would say that 90% of the women I come face to face with know they should not engage in the problem behaviors that have led to their criminal justice involvement.� But for many of these women, acting out in these ways (e.g., violence, drug abuse) made them feel better, and was the best way they knew to cope.� Many could not connect their trauma to their subsequent behaviors.� Many could not even recognize that they had been traumatized and had just normalized their traumatic experiences.� As a result we have moved away from asking while we are taking a woman's history – "what's wrong with you?" and have started asking "what happened to you?"� I have also been moved by how important our "closing exercise" is to women who participate in our program.� It is very meaningful for them.� For some women, it is the first thing they have ever completed in their lives.� If we have any reason to think someone might be leaving the group before the closing ceremony, we make sure to tell them what they mean to the group before they go.�
Q: What has inspired you the most in your work?
What I find most incredible is the women's resilience.� Seeing and hearing stories about how the women have been able to achieve different outcomes when they start to take care of and love themselves, and have the awareness and desire to change.� Women can't do this unless someone helps them to believe that there is hope.� Sometimes we see women who are so broken, who recount horrible stories of trauma but who still have hope.� It may simply be for some women that no one has ever asked them "the" question they need: i.e., "what's happened to you?"� To see their lives change, is what inspires me to go to work every day.� I believe that these women are making real changes in their lives and that is so incredibly inspiring.� To see that someone can go through all of these experiences, be locked up, be using, have had a terrible time in life – but we can still see that change happen.� It is amazing to see women take pride in things like getting their own place, smiling, and just being drug free and lucid.�
Q: What are some of the most compelling lessons you have learned that you can offer to others?�
I am constantly impressed by the resiliency of the human spirit, and motivated by remembering that we need to always be learning and that we don't know it all.� I think the most important thing I could share about this work is that when you treat the trauma, you can treat the problem behavior.� Women who have been traumatized are engaged in self-defeating behavior to mask the pain. When trauma is treated, their behavior can get better, when women feel better, their behavior can change.� In the last few years, it has become clear that the field is embracing this approach more.�� The increase in the number of requests for our training has shown us that; but we need to keep raising awareness and sharing with others how they can become more trauma-informed.��
To read the full interview with Ms. Saulsbury, click here.� For a more detailed description of the work of TAMAR, click here.
NRCJIW Pretrial Pilot Sites Selected
In June 2013, the NRCJIW announced the availability of no-cost training and technical assistance to implement gender-responsive approaches to pretrial screening and services. Applications were received from various jurisdictions demonstrating a great willingness and infrastructure to participate in this effort. Two of the applicant sites were selected: JusticePoint in Milwaukee, WI and Dutchess County Office of Probation and Community Corrections in Poughkeepsie, NY. �Over the next 12 months, NRCJIW staff and consultants will provide assistance tailored to the unique challenges/needs of each jurisdiction. �This assistance will involve examining the pretrial practices of each site with respect to women; providing training to support the implementation of an evidence-based gender-responsive risk/need assessment and pretrial screening tool that helps identify and more accurately target risk/need factors for women; and piloting change strategies to address identified gaps in an effort to build on existing research and practices on effective strategies for justice-involved women.
Women at the Crossroads: DV Survivors with Criminal Justice Involvement
Histories of economic and social marginality, substance abuse, mental illness, physical and sexual abuse in childhood and/or as an adult (including adulthood abusive families and battering relationships) have contributed to the criminal justice involvement of many women in the system. Connecting reentering women with community-based support services designed to deal with their unique challenges is critical to their long-term success.� In response to this need, the Battered Women's Justice Project (BWJP) recently convened a two-part webinar series focused on battered women with criminal justice involvement that focused on this population of women and highlighted a number of issues, including:
- A profile of women offenders;
- The intersection between domestic violence and her involvement in the criminal justice system;
- Collateral consequences and implications for domestic violence providers;
- In their own voices; formerly incarcerated survivors of domestic violence;
- Successful strategies, problem solving approaches, and services to engage domestic violence survivors reentering the community; and
- Available resources such as the National Resource Center on Justice-Involved Women and the Women's Prison Association.
The second session of this webinar series featured a formerly incarcerated woman, who had been a victim of domestic abuse and served 11 years for killing the perpetrator. To listen to her powerful message – and to obtain supplemental webinar materials – visit https://bwjp.ilinc.com/join/mchmkwh.
NRCJIW Project Director Becki Ney to Receive the "Power of One" Award
Congratulations to our NRCJIW Project Director Becki Ney, who will receive the "Power of One" Award at the Adult and Juvenile Female Offenders Conference (AJFO) in October 2013. The Association of Programs for Female Offenders (an ACA affiliate) has chosen Ms. Ney to receive "The Power of One" Award at its conference this year to be held in Portland, Maine from October 6 – 10, 2013. The award "recognizes what one person with one idea or one action can do for providing better services to female offenders." The Association praised Ms. Ney's tireless work in leading the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women and in supporting the valuable work of AJFO. For more information on the Association and its conference, visit http://ajfo.org/.
Look for NRCJIW at AJFO
Are you planning to attend the AJFO conference later this year? If so, please join the NRCJIW for the following workshops:
- "Reflections on the Past, Present and Future of Gender-Informed Criminal Justice," Adult and Juvenile Female Offender Conference in Portland, Maine, October 6 - 10 (October 9th, 2013 from 11:45am-1:00 pm).
- "Gender-Informed Discipline and Sanctions Policy for Female Inmates," Adult and Juvenile Female Offender Conference in Portland, Maine, October 6 - 10 (October 8th, 2013; 2:45-4:15pm).