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College of Social Work

DeHart Co-Authors Book on Exploring Criminalization and Incarceration of Women and Girls

June 24, 2020
Chris Woodley •

Professor Dana DeHart has researched extensively and published several journal articles on aspects of the incarceration of women and girls, including trauma, mental health, and substance abuse. Dr. DeHart has utilized her knowledge and research by co-authoring a recently published book.

Women’s pathways through the criminal legal system are shaped by a variety of factors. Dr. DeHart and Dr. Shannon Lynch, a professor of psychology at Idaho State University, explored these pathways in their book, Women’s and Girls’ Pathways through the Criminal Legal System: Addressing Trauma, Mental Health, and Marginalization. The book focuses on the intersectionality of women’s experiences—how their pathways are differentially impacted by factors such as racial and ethnic backgrounds, sexual and gender identity, mental health and health status, and experiences of trauma.

“Dr. Lynch and I have been collaborating on research and writing projects for years, and we each had independent projects about women’s pathways to crime, impacts of incarceration, and reentry into communities after prison or jail,” DeHart says. “We decided it was time to bring some of that together in a book that took a comprehensive approach to women’s experiences with the criminal legal system.”

DeHart and Lynch describe the pathways as framed through two theoretical perspectives: the feminist pathways perspective and intersectional criminology. The authors also use two applied approaches to prevention, risk reduction, and intervention: trauma-informed approaches and the sequential intercept model.

“The book provides context to women’s experiences with the system, ranging from their first contacts to incarceration and beyond. Using research evidence, we demonstrate how women from different backgrounds experience the system in unique ways,” DeHart says. “The women’s narratives really underscore this and engage readers, including practitioners and policymakers. The applied approaches may interest professionals from healthcare, mental health, social work, psychology, law, and criminology. We address incremental reform but also emphasize the need for more substantial systemic change.”

Since DeHart and Lynch have previously worked together on various projects, the duo avoided frustrations that stall some collaborations. According to DeHart, she is satisfied with creating a meaningful publication that will help a variety of professionals that could also appeal to a broader audience.

“The book contains theory and applied strategies, but it also contains the real stories of women who have been caught in the system,” DeHart says. “The biggest challenge was keeping on the forefront of practice and policy when the world is changing so rapidly, particularly around policing and incarceration. But I think we cover a broad range of strategies and released the book at a time when it’s really needed.”

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