The University of Alabama will begin a $1.9 million study soon that will focus on the Alabama Department of Corrections’ Women’s Risk Needs Assessment process.
The four-year study will begin after a three-year application of the WRNA, which conducts an assessment every six months at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women by studying the risks of each inmate in relation to staff and other prisoners to determine what level of custody to keep the inmate in.
Wendy Williams, deputy commissioner for ADOC, said Alabama is the only state to be using the WRNS to determine the needs of women prisoners, as well as the risks associated with each.
The state previously used an assessment on the male inmates to decide the same factors, but that test did not separate distinctly different factors between men and women who are imprisoned when it comes to rehabilitation and futures paved out for criminal activities.
The WRNA is specific to adversity that affects women that then leads to criminal behavior, such as previous traumatic experiences.
“Seventy-five to 80 percent of women offenders have past victimization or traumatization,” Williams said. “WRNA helps identify those trends so we get them in programming and working beyond those issues to return to society much healthier emotionally and mentally.”
The new study by UA will cover the women’s detention facilities in Alabama utilizing the WRNA program: Montgomery Women’s Facility, Birmingham Community Based Facility and Tutwiler. The university department will be focusing on post-release inmates, as well as secure that the program continues properly.
“We can make generalizations about associations between particular risks and needs and inmate misconduct, but looking at three different prisons in Alabama, I think, will give us a good regional assessment of this particular document,” said Jennifer Kenney, assistant professor in UA’s department of criminology and criminal justice.
Kenney said this study will allow researchers to determine if the WRNA is helping detention centers and correctional programs, as well as help academia with understanding prison systems.
The ADOC has began offering programs for parenting, relationships and a cognitive behavior program for inmates that have been imprisoned more than once.