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Women on Parole: Barriers to Success After Substance Abuse Treatment

NCJ Number
HUMAN ORGANIZATIONS Volume: 60 Issue: 3 Dated: Fall 2001 Pages: 225-233
Date Published
9 pages

This identification of barriers to women on parole succeeding after substance abuse treatment in prison focuses on the experiences of 39 women who participated in the prison-based "Forever Free" substance abuse treatment program in the California Institution for Women in the early 1990s.


Despite the fact that residential treatment attendance has proven to increase women's chances of success on parole, only about half of Forever Free program participants agreed to enter community-based treatment programs. The authors of the current study were interested in determining why some women parolees choose not to enter residential substance abuse treatment. The study found that an important difference between those who decided to attend a residential treatment program and those who did not was apparently a perception of their need for such treatment. Those who chose to participate in residential treatment while on parole mentioned their past failures in staying "clean" and the need for support or structure in order to maintain sobriety after their discharge from prison. Other factors related to a failure to enter community-based treatment after being paroled had less to do with what women expected once paroled and more to do with peer pressure and norms in prison. In order to be successful in their performance while on parole, women who participated in Forever Free while in prison must separate themselves from some aspects of prison society. Among the recommendations offered for improving women parolees' participation in community-based substance abuse treatment are to tailor program content and access to meet the needs of women parolees as they assume family and employment responsibilities. Employment services and vocational training could also help prevent women parolees from relapsing back into the drug subculture. 44 references

Date Published: January 1, 2001