Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Pete Meagher


A women's prison in the midwestern region of the United States experienced an increase of female inmates. Incarcerated women have reported higher rates of substance abuse problems, prior victimization, and mental illness than their male counterparts. Clinical social workers are often the primary service providers in criminal justice settings. The purpose of this action research project was to explore the challenges faced by social workers in a midwestern state when providing clinical treatment services to female offenders. Postmodern feminist theory and pathways theory provided a framework for understanding the factors related to female offending. The practice-focused research question explored the responses of licensed clinical social workers in a midwestern state regarding identifying the issues and challenges of providing clinical treatment services to female offenders. Data were collected from interviews with 7 local clinical social workers who had experience working with female offenders. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis to explore and organize the data. The study revealed 5 primary themes that included the unique background of female offenders, factors contributing to the incarceration of women, barriers to effective clinical treatment, the nature of prison, and postincarceration needs of female offenders. A possible implication of this study for social change is that specialized and/or population-specific training for clinical social workers may benefit clients in achieving their treatment goals and improve their capacity to successfully readjust upon release from jail or prison.

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