n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - A profile of incarcerated female offenders : implications for rehabilitation policy and practice

Volume 30 Number 4
  • ISSN : 1012-8093


Although still limited, inroads are being made in developing a body of knowledge about incarcerated female offenders in South Africa. We present key findings from a survey among this offender population with reference to their demographic characteristics, family background and criminal histories, as well as their uptake of rehabilitation initiatives. Data was obtained from 120 female offenders incarcerated in a South African correctional facility (sample coverage 80.0%). In addition to descriptive results on the profile of female offenders, non-parametric procedures were used to identify meaningful differences (p<0.05) between the profiles of short-term and medium-term female offenders. The results revealed effect sizes of r>-0.20 between the two groups in respect of socio-demographic characteristics, previous arrests and prison sentences, self-harm, substance abuse, participation in rehabilitation programmes and expectancies of future criminality. The survey results call for specific reforms regarding current rehabilitation policy and practices, particularly with imprisoned short-term female offenders in mind as their profiles present unique vulnerabilities for future contact with the criminal justice system.

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