Publications & Articles


Latest Publication

In a Box: Gender Responsive Reform, Mass Supervision, and Neoliberal Policies
Merry Morash, University of California Press, expected February, 2024

This books describes a major reform in probation and parole for women in Michigan and how local court, welfare, mental health, and employer practices can undermine the positive outcomes associated with the reforms.

Click here for more information about In A Box!


  • Michigan’s Gender Responsive Reform in Probation and Parole

    In a Box: Gender Responsive Reform, Mass Supervision, and Neoliberal Policies
    Merry Morash, University of California Press, expected February, 2024

    This books describes a major reform in probation and parole for women in Michigan and how local court, welfare, mental health, and employer practices can undermine the positive outcomes associated with the reforms.

  • Effects of Probation and Parole Agent Communication and Relationships with Women Offenders

    Effective Community interventionsfor Justice-Involved Girls and women in the United States
    In The Wiley Handbook on What Works with Girls and Women in Conflict with the Law: A Critical Review of Theory, Practice, and Policy, 256-266, 2022.

    Merry Morash and Kayla M. Hoskins

    This encyclopedia entry summarizes and discusses many of the research findings presented in other articles on justice-involved women and probation and parole agent communication patterns and relationship style.

    How Interpersonal Communication Improves the Lives of Women on Probation and Parole
    In Reflections on Interpersonal Communication Research, editors Steven R. Wilson and Sandi W. Smith. Congella Academic Publishing. Pages 251-270.

    This chapter tells the story of how an interdisciplinary group of researchers followed more than 400 women on parole and probation over time. The research documents associations between patterns of communication between women and the probation and parole agents who supervise them and women’s drug and alcohol avoidance and recidivism, as mediated by factors such as women’s crime-avoidance self-efficacy and psychological reactance.

    The Connections of Parole and Probation Agent Communication Patterns With Female Offenders’ Job-seeking Self-Efficacy
    International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, vol. 64, no. 8, 774-790, 2020

    Roddy, Ariel L. and Merry Morash

    Using subsamples of 130 and 96 women on probation and parole, this research explores the direct effect of the supervising agent’s communication patterns on client job-seeking self-efficacy. It also tests for the mediating effect through client psychological reactance, which is a feeling that one’s freedoms are threatened. Agent and client reports of a conformity pattern of communication were associated with lower levels of job-seeking self-efficacy. Client reactance mediated this relationship. Agent and client reports of a conversational pattern of communication were associated with increased job-seeking self-efficacy. The results suggest that conformity-oriented communication should be avoided because of its potential to increase reactance and to promote low job-seeking self-efficacy. In contrast, conversational communication appears to have more positive effects on job-seeking self-efficacy. Findings highlight communication as a pathway through which agents can improve behavioral outcomes for women offenders searching for work.

    The Nature and Effects of Messages That Women Receive from Probation and Parole Agents in Conversations About Employment
    Criminal Justice and Behavior, vol. 46, no. 4, 550-567, 2019

    Roddy, Ariel L., Merry Morash, Elizabeth A. Adams, Amanda J. Holmstrom, Sandi W. Smith and Jennifer E. Cobbina

    Using semistructured interviews with 388 women under supervision, this study integrates criminal justice and communication theories by investigating gender responsivity and type of support in messages women receive about employment from supervision agents. Informational support was the most frequent form of supportive communication clients received from their agents, and was the only type of supportive communication clients perceived negatively. Women recalled agents’ messages that varied in their sensitivity to the range of women offenders’ needs (child and family care demands, human capital attainment, mental health issues, and substance abuse recovery). Supportive messages that took into account a variety of problems commonly shared by women on probation and parole had positive effects, whereas supportive messages that were relevant to employment, but failed to consider other needs, had negative effects. Results of this work have implications regarding effective support offered by community supervision agents as they discuss employment.

    Supervision Intensity, Technical Violations, Treatment and Punishment Responses, and Subsequent Recidivism of Women on Probation and Parole
    Criminal Justice Policy Review, vol. 30, no. 5, 788-810, 2019

    Merry Morash, Deborah A. Kashy, Jennifer E. Cobbina, and Sandi W. Smith

    There is much debate about the effects of punitive or treatment responses to the many women who are on probation and parole. This article examines whether types of technical violations (drug or non-drug related) and responses to them (treatment or punishment oriented) as well as supervision intensity predict recidivism. Study subjects are 385 women on probation or parole for a felony offense, and official records of violations and recidivism are the data source. Negative binomial regression analysis revealed that for high-risk women, treatment responses to non-drug violations are related to reductions in recidivism, whereas punitive responses to non-drug offenses are related to increased recidivism. For low-risk women, treatment responses to non drug related violations were related to increased recidivism and punitive responses to violations unrelated to drug use were related to decreased recidivism. Study findings suggest differential reactions to common supervision practices depending on a woman’s initial risk to recidivate.

    Supervision Intensity, Technical Violations, Treatment and Punishment Responses, and Subsequent Recidivism of Women on Probation and Parole
    Criminal Justice Policy Review, vol. 30, no. 5, 788-810, 2019

    Merry Morash, Deborah A. Kashy, Jennifer E. Cobbina, and Sandi W. Smith

    There is much debate about the effects of punitive or treatment responses to the many women who are on probation and parole. This article examines whether types of technical violations (drug or non-drug related) and responses to them (treatment or punishment oriented) as well as supervision intensity predict recidivism. Study subjects are 385 women on probation or parole for a felony offense, and official records of violations and recidivism are the data source. Negative binomial regression analysis revealed that for high-risk women, treatment responses to non-drug violations are related to reductions in recidivism, whereas punitive responses to non-drug offenses are related to increased recidivism. For low-risk women, treatment responses to non drug related violations were related to increased recidivism and punitive responses to violations unrelated to drug use were related to decreased recidivism. Study findings suggest differential reactions to common supervision practices depending on a woman’s initial risk to recidivate.

    Supportive Messages Female Offenders Receive from Probation and Parole Officers about Substance Avoidance: Message Perceptions and Effects
    Criminal Justice and Behavior, vol. 44, no. 11, 1496-1517, 2017

    Holmstron, Amanda J., Elizabeth A. Adams, Merry Morash, Sandi W. Smith, and Jennifer E. Cobbina

    Substance use is a key reason for initial offending and recidivism for the over one million women on probation and parole in the United States. Social support protects against both recidivism and relapse to substance use. However, many women supervised in the community with a history of substance abuse lack social support from family and friends. Probation and parole officers (POs) may serve as sources of social support for such women. In the current study, types of supportive communication and their effects were coded from semi-structured interview responses from 284 female offenders that recalled supportive messages from their POs regarding substance use avoidance. Results indicate that informational support is most likely to be provided by POs, whereas tangible and network support were reported infrequently. Most supportive communication was perceived positively. Implications of this study include identification of helpful message strategies for POs and gaps in female offenders’ social support resources.

    Is the Nature of Communication Relevant to the Supportiveness of Women’s Relationships with Probation and Parole Agents?
    International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, vol. 62, no. 6, 1629-1647, 2018

    Merry Morash, Deborah A. Kashy, Sandi W. Smith, and Jennifer E. Cobbina

    This article reports on a study of the connection of probation and parole agents’ communication with relationship supportiveness as perceived by both women offenders and agents. For a sample of offenders and their agents, multilevel modeling was used to control for nonindependence of data for women assigned to the same agent. Consistent with communication theory, a conversational approach was positively related to measures of a supportive relationship, and an authoritarian/ conformity pattern of communication was negatively related to a supportive relationship. For low-risk offenders, attention to client-identified problems was positively related to more supportive relationships. For women with high risk for reoffending, the agents viewed themselves as less supportive if they addressed a high proportion of offender-identified needs. Findings suggest the efficacy of training to promote agents’ conversational communication and attention to offender-identified problems. Findings also suggest the need to more fully explore agents’ experience in working with very high-risk offenders.

    Female Offenders' Multiple Goals for Engaging in Desired Communication with Their Probation/Parole Officers
    Communication Quarterly, vol. 65, no. 1, 1-19, online 2017

    Jennifer Cornacchione and Sandi W. Smith

    The multiple goals approach is used to assess whether or not women on probation or parole engaged in communication with their probation/parole officers (PO) regarding needs or issues they had and about which they wanted to talk. Interviews were conducted with 402 women on probation and parole across Michigan; 127 stated that there was a time when they wanted to talk to their PO about a difficult need or issue they were facing, including housing and illegal activity. Women who were concerned about threats to their freedom were less likely to have initiated the conversation. Findings highlight possible reasons that impact whether or not individuals engage in difficult conversations that are desired.

    The Connection of Probation/Parole Officer Actions to Women Offenders’ Recidivism
    Criminal Justice and Behavior, vol. 43, no. 4, 506-524, 2016

    Merry Morash, Deborah A. Kashy, Jennifer E. Cobbina, and Sandi W. Smith

    Because women offenders often have limited social networks and unique needs, the actions of probation/parole officers providing community supervision may be particularly relevant to outcomes. The present study examined the effects of probation/parole officer relationship style, attention to criminogenic needs, and intensity of supervision on women offenders’ arrests and convictions within a 24-month period. Contrary to findings from other studies, the measured elements of officer actions had no direct effects on recidivism for a sample of 226 women. However, the analysis revealed an indirect effect in which a nonsupportive, punitive relationship was related to reactance and anxiety, which in turn were related to high recidivism. The discussion focuses on theoretical and methodological explanations for the null findings regarding direct effects. Moreover, it draws on the literature in psychology and communication to suggest approaches to reducing the reactance that can promote recidivism and to suggest related future research directions.

    An Exploration of Female Offenders' Memorable Messages from Probation and Parole Officers on the Self-Assessment of Behavior from a Control Theory Perspective
    Journal of Applied Communication Research, vol. 44, no. 1, 60-77, 2016

    Cornacchione, Jennifer, Sandi W. Smith, Merry Morash, Miriam Northcutt Bohmert, Jennifer E. Cobbina, and Deborah A. Kashy

    Guided by control theory, this study examines memorable messages that women on probation and parole receive from their probation and parole agents. Women interviewed for the study were asked to report a memorable message they received from an agent, and to describe situations if/when the message came to mind in three contexts likely to emerge from a control theory perspective: when they did something of which they were proud, when they stopped themselves from doing something they would later regret, and when they did something of which they were not proud. The types of memorable messages and the reactions to these messages within the three contexts were coded, and differences between women on probation versus parole were examined. Overall, a greater proportion of women on parole recalled memorable messages, and the most frequently reported type of memorable message was behavioral advice. Women reported that the message helped them do things of which they were proud, such as engaging in routine activities and fulfilling goals; helped them to not give into urges that could lead to further negative sanctions or feelings of regret; and came to mind when they relapsed. Practical implications of the findings for training are presented.

    Communication Style as an Antecedent to Reactance, Self-Efficacy, and Restoration of Freedom for Drug- and Alcohol-Involved Women on Probation and Parole
    Journal of Health Communication, vol. 21, no. 5, 504-511, 2016

    Smith, S. W., Jennifer J. Cornacchione, Merry Morash, Deborah A. Kashy, and Jennifer E. Cobbina

    This study extends research on psychological reactance theory by examining probation and parole officer (PO) communication style as an antecedent to female offenders’ reactance and two indicators of subsequent drug and alcohol abuse while serving probation or parole sentences. Structural equation modeling was conducted to test a mediational path model of PO communication style (conversation vs. conformity) on women’s self-reported reactance, self efficacy to avoid substance use, restoration, and subsequent substance use and official records of substance-use violations (obtained via PO case notes). Overall, results demonstrate that perceptions of PO conversational communication style were negatively associated with reactance, but positively associated with self-efficacy to avoid drugs and alcohol. Conversely, women who perceived their POs to have a conformity communication style were more likely to report higher levels of reactance and lower self-efficacy to avoid drugs and alcohol. Psychological reactance led to desire to restore freedom, while self efficacy to avoid drugs and alcohol did not. Desire to restore freedom was linked with reports of using drugs and alcohol and violations by POs for using drugs and alcohol. These findings highlight the importance of communication style in the relationship between POs and offenders.

    The Effects of Probation or Parole Agent Relationship Style and Women Offenders' Criminogenic Needs on Offenders' Responses to Supervision Interactions.
    Criminal Justice and Behavior, vol. 42, no. 4, 412-434. 2015.

    Merry Morash, Deborah A. Kashy, Sandi W. Smith, and Jennifer E. Cobbina

    Although prior research revealed that in non-correctional and correctional settings, staff relationship style affects client outcomes, there has been little study of this effect for women offenders. The present study investigated effects of two dimensions of relationship style (probation or parole agent–reported supportiveness and punitiveness) on female clients’ reports of responding to interactions with their agents with anxiety, reactance, and a sense of self efficacy to avoid a criminal lifestyle. Results of a longitudinal study of 330 women on probation or parole revealed that agent supportiveness elicited lower anxiety and reactance and higher crime avoidance self-efficacy. Agent punitiveness elicited greater anxiety and crimeavoidance self-efficacy. Moderation effect analysis showed that punitive style was most related to anxiety and reactance for women at lowest risk for reoffending. In contrast, supportiveness was most related to positive outcomes for the highest risk women. The research findings suggest areas for future theory development and approaches to effective correctional practice.

    Trust and Trauma Disclosure: A Mixed-method Analysis of Men’s and Women’s Decisions to Disclose Trauma to Probation and Parole Agents

    Kayla M. Hoskins, Dissertation at Michigan State University, 2023

    Women and men entangled in the criminal legal system have a high prevalence of trauma, and research has documented the relationship between trauma and deviant behavior. The theory of posttraumatic growth has established the importance of trauma disclosure in gaining support for trauma, facilitating posttraumatic growth, and improving one’s well-being. Trauma research has identified a myriad of barriers to trauma disclosure, and evidence suggests that distrust of correctional actors may hinder system-involved individuals’ disclosure of trauma. Researchers have yet to study the role of trust in clients’ trauma disclosure to probation and parole agents, and the outcomes of disclosure. Probation and parole agents have an opportunity to connect their clients with needed trauma-focused services. This mixed-method research study is designed to analyze the trauma disclosure decisions of 135 individuals on felony probation and parole in Michigan. The first step of this study uses available quantitative data to test models that include hypothesized predictors of 85 men and 50 women’s trauma disclosure to the supervising agent. Multivariate logistic regression analyses test the relationship between clients’ trust in agents and trauma disclosure, and included measures of gender, race, age, level of trauma-related needs, level of perceived social support, and time on supervision as covariates. Quantitative analyses also test for the moderating effects of gender and race on the relationship between trust in an agent and disclosure of trauma to an agent. Results show a significant relationship between trust in an agent and trauma disclosure to an agent, but insignificant relationships between all other covariates and disclosure. Similarly, tests for moderating effects of race and gender yielded insignificant results. For the second step of this study, qualitative analyses were conducted from interviews with 50 men and 29 women who also were part of the quantitative analyses, to develop an explanation of clients’ trauma disclosure to agents, explore a range of potential influences on participants’ disclosure decisions and the immediate outcomes of disclosure (e.g., agent response). The study participants’ explanations revealed a number of reasons for disclosure and non-disclosure and offered several key findings. First, receipt of support to cope with trauma (from sources alternative to the agent) was connected to decisions to disclose trauma to agents or not. Barriers to disclosure included perceptions it would be inappropriate to disclose trauma or mental health information in the supervision context, distrust of the agent or the criminal legal system, discomfort divulging trauma to others, negative prior disclosure experiences, and feeling too overwhelmed by the harmful effects of trauma. Facilitators to disclosure included perceived trustworthiness of the agent, belief that agent should know about the trauma, and for a few disclosers, feeling pressured, required, or coerced to disclose trauma to the agent. Agents responded to trauma disclosure by providing emotional support, informational support, or tangible support; unsupportive responses included dismissive, unhelpful, and rarely, punitive responses. Matrix coding was used to compare these themes by gendered and racialized groups, and revealed some qualitative distinctions in clients’ reasons for disclosure and non-disclosure and expectations of whether agents would have a supportive or unsupportive response to trauma disclosure, i.e., expectations of whether the agent could or would help or care about their trauma. Altogether, the quantitative results and qualitative findings establish evidence of the connection of trust to trauma disclosure to probation and parole agents, and present theoretical implications for the theory of posttraumatic growth and psychological theories of disclosure. Furthermore, results of the qualitative findings reveal additional influences on trust and trauma disclosure to supervising agents.


  • Influences on How Probation and Parole Agents Communicate to Clients

    Precursors to Probation and Parole Agent Intent to send Informational, Emotional, and Esteem Social Support Messages to Female Clients
    Journal of Applied Communication Research, vol. 47, no. 3, 344-363, 2019

    Sandi W. Smith, Merry Morash, Brandon Walling, Elizabeth A. Adams, and Amanda J.

    Supervising agents serve as sources of social support for over one million women in the US on probation and parole who strive to avoid recidivism. Little is known about the supportive messages agents intend to provide their female clients or their precursors. The optimal matching model of social support is used in an investigation of the precursors to agents’ intent to send different types of social support messages to the women they supervise. Results indicated that supervising agents intended to provide informational support in the form of suggestions or advice, esteem support in the form of compliments, and emotional support in the form of encouragement to the women. Both agent communication pattern and offender level variables were precursors to the intent to send informational support messages, but only agent communication pattern variables predicted the intent to send emotional support messages

    Precursors to Probation and Parole Agent Communication Patterns with Female Clients Communication Studies, vol. 71, no. 2, 203-225, 2020.

    Sandi W. Smith, Merry Morash, Brandon M. Walling, and Elizabeth A. Adams

    Supervising agents serve dual roles as they both help and control the over one million women in the United States (U.S.) on probation and parole as the women strive for lives free of substance abuse and crime. Previous research has found that supervising agent communication patterns have a strong influence on these positive outcomes. Little is known, however, about the precursors to the conversational and conformity communication patterns supervising agents use as they serve these dual roles for their female clients. In this study, which is part of a longer-term investigation of communication between women offenders and their supervising agents, multilevel modeling was used to investigate both the characteristics of the agent and of the women they supervise as precursors to agent communication patterns. Supervising agents’ client-specific conversational patterns were predicted by their typical self-reported conversational patterns and client assessment of agents’ patterns. Conformity patterns of agents were predicted by agent typical self-reported conformity patterns. Also, providing evidence that agents adapt their communication patterns due to recipient characteristics and behaviors, the offender characteristics of adult abuse predicted greater use of a conversation pattern, whereas offender characteristics of child abuse, antisocial attitude, and lower self-efficacy predicted lower use of a conversational pattern. Higher levels of technical violations, recent arrests, and substance abuse predicted greater use of a conformity pattern with specific clients. A conversational pattern promotes a number of positive outcomes, so this suggests the efficacy of shifting agents toward establishing this pattern, especially with women whose personal characteristics were related to the use of a conformity pattern.

  • Risks of Offending and the Desistance Process for Women Offenders

    Women’s Identity Transformation in Prison, Jail, and Treatment
    From: It Depends on the Situation: Women’s Identity Transformation in Prison, Jail, and Substance Abuse Treatment Settings. Feminist Criminology, vol. 15, no. 3, 340-358, 2020.

    Kayla M. Hoskins and Jennifer E. Cobbina

    Scholars have examined women’s identity development in prisons. Less is known if and how identity development affects women in different stages of the correctional system. This study applies narrative identity theory, cognitive transformation theory, and literature on pains of imprisonment to 118 women’s life-story narratives to explore identity change in prisons, jails, and substance abuse treatment. Qualitative analysis revealed noteworthy situational differences in the prevalence and nature of identity transformations. Women typically associated substance abuse treatment experiences with positive development, whereas prisons and jails were generally associated with harm to identity. Implications for correctional policy and practice are discussed.

    Prison Experiences and Identity in Women’s Life Stories: Implications for Reentry.
    In Beyond Recidivism: New Approaches to Research on Prisoner Reentry and Reintegration. Editors Andrea Leverentz, Elsa Y. Chen, and Johnna Christian. New York University Press, 151-171, 2020.

    Merry Morash, Elizabeth A. Adams, Marva V. Goodson, and Jennifer E. Cobbina

    From the introduction to the book (p. 7) that holds this chapter: “Merry Morash and coauthors analyze how the prison experiences of women shape their life stories and their narratives of reentry. They draw on narrative interviews with women who discussed the pains of imprisonment as causes of distress in their lives, often discussion the inability to fulfill perceived obligations to families.”

    Predictors of generativity and satisfaction with life in a sample of women offenders
    Psychology, Crime & Law, vol 28, no. 6, 587-607

    Deborah A. Kashy and Merry Morash

    This article identifies predictors of two influences on desistance from crime – generativity (caring for others) and life satisfaction. Using data from a five-year longitudinal study of 260 women on probation and parole in Michigan, the goal is to determine whether risks and needs common to women offenders are related to generativity and satisfaction with life. Predictors included average values, and changes in values over time, for a range of psychological, social network, contextual, and resource indicators of characteristics common to women offenders. Regression analyses showed that, controlling for the effects of average levels of each variable, women who increased in self-efficacy and educational strengths and those who decreased in employment/financial needs reported high generativity. Women who improved in family relationships and who decreased in economic needs also had high life satisfaction. The findings suggest that community corrections interventions designed to increase women offenders’ psychological, financial, and educational resources hold promise for supporting women offenders’ general well-being and potentially their desistance. Relevant to theory, many adversities and circumstances appear to reduce the possibility of generativity and satisfaction with life.

    Women’s Agency to Desist: “I’m Going to be Successful Someday:” Women’s Personal Projects to Improve their Lives and Implications for Clarifying the Nature of Agency in Criminological Theories of Desistance
    Feminist Criminology, vol. 17, no. 2, 185-205.

    Kayla M. Hoskins

    Women’s agency to construct prosocial lives remains understudied in criminology. This qualitative inquiry explores the nature and outcomes of women’s personal projects, which reflect their agency. In up to five interviews, 401 women on probation and parole explained efforts to improve their lives. Psychological theory on personal projects guided analysis that revealed information on project meaning and facilitators and barriers to project pursuit. Women shared a motivation to avoid trouble and establish prosocial lives. Outcomes were improved by social support and prosocial opportunities. Findings have implications for defining and analyzing agency in desistance research and for correctional responses to women.

    How Women on Probation and Parole Incorporate Trauma Into Their Identities
    Journal of Interpersonal Violence, vol. 36, no. 23-24, Pages NP12807-NP12830, 2021.

    Kayla Hoskins, and Merry Morash

    The many court-involved women who have experienced trauma in their lifetimes are particularly vulnerable to the negative outcomes of trauma. The purpose of this qualitative inquiry is to understand how women who have repeatedly broken the law incorporate traumatic experiences into their identities in such a way that they increase their agency, communion, or spirituality. The research also documents the types of traumatic experiences the women included in their life stories. Informed by narrative identity theory and the related theory of posttraumatic growth, the life stories of 118 women on probation and parole were examined for themes indicative of identity transformation through redemption or indicative of contamination and stagnation. The narrative accounts considered in this study involved sexual, physical, and psychological abuse; neglect; sudden or unexpected loss; violence exposure; and severe illness or injury. Nearly all women reported having at least one traumatic experience in their lifetime, and the majority incorporated the experiences into their identities. Posttraumatic growth most often included gains in communion (i.e., helping others and caring for others) and gains in individual agency (i.e., empowerment). Thirty women also described having generative concerns or taking generative actions to improve the well-being of others as an outcome of their traumatic experience(s). For women with children, becoming better mothers and protecting their children from victimization were the overarching themes of their redemption, communion, and generative narratives. The findings highlight the importance of community responses to traumatized girls and of counseling and therapy for justice-involved women. Several specific suggestions for supporting the development of trauma and survivor narratives as a therapeutic tool are provided as a means for clients to develop interpersonal connections and empowerment.

    For a Copy or More Information Contact Corresponding Author:
    Kayla M. Hoskins, School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University
    655 Auditorium Road,
    East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.

    Narrative Identity Development and Desistance from Illegal Behavior among Substance-Using Female Offenders: Implications for Narrative Therapy and Creating Opportunity
    Sex Roles, first online October 2019

    Merry Morash, Rebecca Stone, Kayla Hoskins, Deborah A. Kashy, Jennifer E. Cobbina

    According to narrative identity theory, to desist from breaking the law, offenders must fashion a prosocial identity through a process of redemption by “making good” of past negative events. To improve understanding of women offenders’ redemption, analyses were conducted of the life stories and the identity change those stories revealed for 118 U.S. women with histories of multiple criminal convictions. Women most often described redemption from illegal activity and substance misuse, distress and trauma, and the challenges of giving birth and parenting. They rarely described redemption in educational and employment settings. The numbers and types of accounts of redemption did not explain desistance. However, qualitative analyses showed important differences in the redemption accounts of women who did and did not desist. Persisters’ stories of redemption tended to lack coherence and revealed tendencies to minimize both the negative effects of illegal behavior and the connection of illegal behavior to identities. Desisters’ accounts emphasized women’s strong motivations to change and their efforts to distance their current from their prior selves, steer internal change, and identify valuable prosocial qualities in themselves. Promising treatment interventions include support for women’s development of coherent life stories and autonomy support to increase motivation to change. Findings also suggest the need for policy change to increase both employment opportunities for women offenders and programs that provide employment and education that promote prosocial identity development.

    Characteristics and Context of Women Probationers and Parolees who Engage in Violence
    Criminal Justice and Behavior, vol. 45, no. 3, 381-401, 2017

    Merry Morash, Deborah A. Kashy, Jennifer E. Cobbina, and Sandi W. Smith

    For a sample of 396 women on probation and parole, this article presents the results of qualitative analysis that shows the nature of violence for a subgroup of 75 women who were convicted of a violent act. For the full sample of 396, the article also presents results of quantitative analyses that identify correlates of violent behavior. Women’s violent acts were most often assaults on people who were not intimate partners. Second and third most common violent acts were for assaults of an intimate partner and robbery, respectively. Quantitative analysis revealed that history of adult abuse and anger predicted violence. The effect of abuse on violent behavior was partially mediated by anger. Intercorrelations between anger, mental health problems, histories of being abused, and current substance abuse suggest the efficacy of assessing these attributes so that programming can provide individualized interventions that address co-occurring problems.

    Women’s Experience of Motherhood, Violations of Supervision Requirements and Arrests
    British Journal of Criminology vol. 57, issue 6, 1420-1441, 2017

    Elizabeth A. Adams, Merry Morash, Sandi W. Smith, and Jennifer E. Cobbina

    Though parenting is commonly viewed as an important factor influencing women’s desistance from offending, little is known about how specific aspects of parenting relate to recidivism. The present study investigated the connections of parenting stress, parenting involvement, routine parenting activities and maternal motivations to violations of supervision conditions, including arrests, for a sample of 190 women. The findings support desistance theories that identify involvement in routine prosocial activities, in this case caring for children, as an important explanation for complying with requirements of supervision and avoiding arrest. In contrast, motivations regarding motherhood alone do not appear to provide a strong enough catalyst to shift women away from patterns of lawbreaking.

    Women on Parole, Identity Processes, and Primary Desistance
    Feminist Criminology, vol 13, no. 4, 382-403, 2018

    Rebecca Stone, Merry Morash, Marva Goodson, Jennifer E. Cobbina, and Sandi W. Smith

    The current study employs a prospective mixed-methods design to examine women parolees’ identities early in their supervision and the association of their identity development at that point to their record of subsequent arrests. Guided by narrative identity theory, we first conduct quantitative analysis of the relationship between redemption and contamination narratives and subsequent arrests. We then return to the qualitative interview data to search for additional explanatory themes that shed further light on women’s identity and desistance from crime. Results indicate that identity verification from parole officers and others increases women’s self-esteem and assists them in overcoming barriers to desistance.

    Women at the Nexus of Correctional and Social Policies: Implications for Recidivism Risk
    British Journal of Criminology, vol. 57, no. 2, 441-462, 2017

    Merry Morash, Deborah A Kashy, Miriam Northcutt Bohmert, Jennifer E. Cobbina, and Sandi W. Smith

    This article addresses criticism by critical and feminist criminologists who fault the Risk/Needs/Responsivity corrections model for ignoring state-created recidivism risks. It examines the connection between women offenders’ changes in access to economic safety net benefits and changes in individual recidivism risk. Longitudinal quantitative data were from 345 women interviewed six months apart in a state with extreme benefits cuts. Loss of monetary assistance and new unmet need for housing aid were significantly related to increased economic-related recidivism risk. Women with consistent unmet needs and those who received benefits had high levels of risk over time. Women with persistent unmet economic need had high levels of other risk that included mental illness and substance abuse. Findings reveal inconsistencies between polices that reduce availability of economic benefits to the poor and the correctional goals of reducing recidivism risk.

    The Relevance of Women’s Economic Marginalization to Recidivism
    Criminal Justice and Behavior, vol. 49, no. 3, 330-349, 2021

    Merry Morash and Deborah A. Kashy

    This study examines whether changes over time in women’s criminogenic needs, particularly their financial needs, predict recidivism. In a 9-year longitudinal study, 304 women were interviewed repeatedly during 4.5 years after probation/parole began. Women provided data on both their gender-specific and gender-neutral criminogenic needs. Women’s average standing on each need and an index of their change in the need over time were computed and used to predict subsequent recidivism over the 3.4 years after the final interview. Women whose financial needs decreased were less likely to be rearrested and convicted relative to other women. The findings highlight the importance of considering a multifaceted and gender-specific definition of economic marginalization in both theory and practice. At the policy level, there is a need to reduce justice-involved women’s financial needs. In addition, further longitudinal research should be conducted to understand how different type of changes in women’s lives impact recidivism.

    Intensive Parenting Ideologies and Risks for Recidivism among Justice-Involved Mothers
    Women & Criminal Justice, vol. 30, no. 5, 316-335.

    Elizabeth A. Adams

    Intensive parenting is the dominant parenting ideology in the United States, and it holds parents, especially mothers, accountable for the outcomes of their children, and urges them to expend extensive time and resources on child-rearing, even when such efforts compromise the parent’s wellbeing. Research continuously highlights the harms associated with women’s intensive parenting beliefs. This study employed factor analysis on the Intensive Parenting Attitudes Questionnaire to examine whether the resulting dimensions of intensive parenting related to risks for recidivism for 164 justice-involved mothers. Results indicated that their strong endorsement of essentialism (beliefs that mothers are uniquely qualified and responsible for child-rearing) and parenting that is all-consuming (beliefs that parenting requires great time and effort) were significantly associated with multiple risks for recidivism. The findings clarify how specific intensive parenting beliefs factor into mothers’ risks for recidivism and suggest the importance of not encouraging these beliefs in correctional settings

  • Transportation and Support Network Resources

    Cumulative Disadvantage and the Role of Transportation in Community Supervision
    Crime & Delinquency, vol. 64, no. 8, 1033-1056, 2018

    Northcutt Bohmert, Miriam and Alfred DeMaris

    Drawing from cumulative disadvantage theory, we are the first to examine the role of transportation disadvantage among other known challenges for women on community supervision. We create a composite measure of transportation disadvantage using factor analyses and data for 362 women on probation and parole in one Midwestern state: It is used to predict arrest and conviction using multiepisode event history analysis and conditional logistic regression. Consistent with cumulative disadvantage theory, the results suggest each additional disadvantage makes women more vulnerable, over and above the other disadvantages. Transportation disadvantage is a significant and entrenched feature in criminal justice-involved women’s lives. The import of modeling all available recidivism events, given the entrenched nature of criminal justice system involvement, cannot be overstated.

    A First Look at Justice-Involved Women’s Egocentric Social Networks

    Marva V. Goodson-Miller

    Despite the prominence of social support research in the offender rehabilitation literature, network methods have yet to be used to extend research beyond core network support to investigate resources accessible to justice-involved individuals from semi-regular interaction partners. This study is the first to apply egocentric (personal) social network methods to assess the composition and structure of justice-involved individuals’ networks. Using data from in-person interviews with 159 justice-involved women about their 1313 network members, four social layers – core, active peripheral, latent peripheral, and estranged ties – are delineated, described, and compared. Findings indicated: 1) there is an abundance of resources available to women in the intermediate and outer social layers of their networks – active and latent peripheral – that are ignored when scholars exclusively study core network members, 2) Latent peripheral ties (i.e., colleagues) provide access to resources associated with women’s correctional needs (i.e., legal advice, employment opportunities), and 3) relationships become decentralized and unstable – in terms of frequency of contact, geographical distance, and emotional closeness – from the inner to outer layers. Measuring the outer social layers is critical to identifying relationships that compromise reintegration (i.e., estranged) and altering network configurations to improve access to social capital and social support.

    Female Offenders’ Egocentric Social Networks and Access to Needed Resources.

    Marva V. Goodson

    Criminological frameworks and research emphasize the importance of social capital for desistance from crime. However, it is unclear why deficits exist in networks and how differences among offenders' semiregular interaction partners are related to resource access. For women in the criminal justice system, an understudied population, research has produced rich narratives highlighting the importance of social support during the correctional process. But, few scholars have assessed offender characteristics that are associated with resource access and the structural and compositional characteristics of female offenders' social networks and network members have yet to be studied. The present study utilizes innovative social network software and egocentric social network methods and techniques to collect data on women offenders’ semiregular interaction partners. Two key research objectives are to

    1. present a descriptive assessment of women’s social support networks and access to social capital through these networks and
    2. identify participant (e.g., financial hardship, limited education), network member (e.g., age, gender, criminal history), tie (e.g., closeness, frequency of contact), and network characteristics (e.g., density, proportion kin) that are associated with access to resources commonly needed by women. To collect the data, face-to-face interviews were completed with a sample of 160 justice-involved women (50 who were on parole and 110 who were on probation) about their 1313 network members.

    The research involves a two-study design. The first study examines women’s access to resources from individuals who they “know” based on a 26-item resource generator. Single-level analyses are used to examine the prediction of access to political social capital and personal and problem-solving social capital, two dimensions of the resource generator. The second study focuses on dyadic social capital and the structure and composition of women’s networks. Multilevel regression models are tested to predict access to resources from specific network members. In the first study, on average, women had access to nearly three-quarters of the 26 resource generator items but demonstrated resource deficits in relation to political social capital (i.e., elected officials, someone who works at City Hall). Assessment of the connection between participant characteristics and access to personal and problem-solving capital suggest that women who attained higher levels of education were more likely to have access to social capital.

    In regard to political social capital, women who reported increased employment and financial needs (i.e., unemployed, unable to pay bills without help from family or friends) and women who had recently been arrested were less likely to have access to social capital. Findings from the second study suggest that, on average, women possess eight semiregular interaction partners. One-third of network members had previously been involved with the law and many were substance users. On average, crime-involved and/or substance-abusing ties accounted for approximately half of women’s access to social capital. Networks were moderately dense and comprised of mostly women. Older participants and those with higher employment and financial needs were less likely to be tied to individuals who provided access to social capital. Network members who were older in age, employed, and emotionally close to the participant were particularly helpful in providing women access to resources. A test of an interaction effect between network characteristics revealed that for women with loosely- knit networks (i.e., low density), increases in the proportion of kinship ties within the network was associated with reduced access to social capital. Implications of the research are discussed.

    Help or Hindrance: Female Probationers’ Navigation of Supervision Requirements Through Personal Support Networks.
    Criminal Justice and Behavior, vol 45, no. 10, 1483-1506, 2018

    Marva V. Goodson

    This study integrates egocentric social network analysis techniques and qualitative methods to examine (a) the characteristics of female offenders’ semiregular interaction partners and their provision of resources, (b) the relationship and key resources provided by the “most helpful” and “least helpful” network member, and (c) the characteristics of network members that offenders identify as having negative influence on them. In-person interviews were conducted with 41 female felons who provided information on 436 network members. Findings from the network data suggest that, on average, women possess 10 semiregular interaction partners, networks have a heavy concentration of substance users, and less than half of the network members provide any form of helpful supervision-related resources to the participants. Findings from the qualitative component of the research highlight the helpfulness of networks members who provided transportation, financial assistance, and emotional support. Helpful network members tended to be older, employed, more educated, and closer geographically.

    The Moderating Effect of Subtance Abuse Treatment Engagement on the Connection Between Support from Program Participants and Substance-Related Recidivism for Justice-Involved Women
    International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, vol. 64, no. 12, 1217-1235, 2020.

    This study examines the prediction of substance-related technical violations and arrests from (a) a three-dimensional measure of substance abuse treatment engagement—treatment satisfaction, treatment participation, and counselor rapport—and (b) support from peers in the treatment program. The study focuses on 204 women on probation or parole who attended a substance abuse treatment program in the first 9 months of supervision. Data were collected in face-to-face interviews and from official records of violations and arrests. Generalized linear mixed-effects modeling was used to assess the main effects and the interaction effect of within-program peer support and other indicators of engagement as predictors of substance-related technical violations and arrests. Peer support was positively related to violations/arrests when treatment engagement was low. Findings suggest that for women who do not score high in treatment engagement, support from peers is related to increased recidivism, and group treatment may be contraindicated.

    Spatial Mismatch, Race and Ethnicity, and Unemployment: Implications for Interventions With women on Probation and Parole
    Crime & Delinquency, vol. 68, no. 12, 2175-2199, 2021.

    Ariel L. Roddy, Merry Morash, and Miriam Northcutt Bohmert

    For 312 women on probation and parole, we used mediation and conditional process analyses to examine the indirect effect of minority racial/ethnic status on unemployment through spatial mismatch between women’s place of residence and the location of available jobs. Consistent with the spatial mismatch hypothesis, employment opportunities per capita within 2 miles of women’s census tract of residence mediated the relationship between minority status and unemployment. The connection of spatial mismatch to unemployment was less pronounced for women with high levels of transportation access. Findings point to the importance of broader social policies to support well-developed transportation systems and community-based job development.

    Transportation Strategies of Female Offenders
    Federal Probation, vol. 80, no. 3, 45-48.

    Miriam Northcutt Bohmert


    The Role of Transportation Disadvantage for Women on Community Supervision
    Criminal Justice and Behavior, vol. 43, no. 11, 1522-1540, 2016

    Miriam Northcutt Bohmert

    Access to transportation (i.e., walking, public transit, personal vehicles), or lack thereof, has not been extensively explored in criminal justice samples. Consequently, mixed-methods study of 366 women on probation and parole is the first to define transportation disadvantage, document its prevalence, and explore the problems related to it. Findings point to four themes, discovered in quantitative data analysis and buttressed by qualitative accounts, that illuminate the importance of transportation to justice-involved women. First, women have extensive transportation deficits at the individual level (e.g., they have poor physical health). Second, women rely heavily on social support. Third, women have deficits at the community level (e.g., they reside in inaccessible areas). Fourth, women have trouble identifying transportation-related problems directly, but through their narratives identify 10 distinct types. Further, transportation was a pressing concern for 42.6% of women that coincides with other needs such as health, safety, employment, neighborhood accessibility, and social support.

  • The Perceptions and Strategies of Women Offenders in the Community

    An Exploration of Employment-Related Personal Projects Undertaken by Women on Probation and Parole
    Feminist Criminology, vol. 16, no. 1, 3-25, 2021

    Ariel L. Roddy, Merry Morash, and Kayla M. Hoskins

    This qualitative research investigates the extent to which 401 women under supervision identify employment-related personal projects (i.e., actions taken to achieve abstract goals) as a way to make their lives better. Psychological theory about personal projects and feminist pathways theory guided the analysis. Findings reveal how project meaningfulness, self-efficacy, and social support to carry out the project affect well-being. Structural barriers, disability, and transportation issues were also identified. Findings suggest that many women pursue and benefit from employment-related projects. Correctional agents can assist women by helping them choose meaningful projects and providing information, resources, and social support.

    Women Offenders’ Perception of Treatment by Police and Courts
    In Lives of Incarcerated Women: An International Perspective, p 126-141. Eds. Candace Kruttschnitt and Catrien Bijleveld. New York: Routledge. 2016

    Jennifer E. Cobbina and Merry Morash

    Nearly four decades of research on procedural justice demonstrates that individuals’ encounters with justice system officials shape their perceptions of those officials and their judgments about fairness and legitimacy. However, most studies rely on survey research to study people in the general population who rarely break the law. In an attempt to fill the gap in the literature, using in-depth interviews, this study examines female parolees’ perceptions of treatment they received from the police and judges. Study results confirm that women’s views of their interactions with police and judges influence their judgments about fairness and legitimacy in the application of the law.

    Race, Neighborhood Context, and Strategies to Avoid Victimization among Female Probationers and Parolees
    Race and Justice, vol. 4, no. 2, 358-380, 2014

    Jennifer E. Cobbina, Merry Morash, Deborah A Kashy, and Sandi W Smith

    An established body of literature shows that females have higher levels of fear than males. Research suggests that women typically resort to rather constraining behavioral actions that limit their participation in public life. However, it is unclear whether the strategies women use to avoid victimization are tied to community context, especially for high-risk populations, such as women offenders. We build from insights of previous research by examining what strategies female probationers and parolees use to avoid victimization and their perception of how effective such strategies are in keeping them safe, whether the subjective and objective measures of neighborhood context is related to women’s strategies and whether the strategies used to avoid victimization vary by race and economic status.

    Race, Neighborhood Danger, and Coping Strategies among Female Probationers and Parolees
    Race and Justice, vol. 4, no. 1, 3-28, 2014

    Jennifer E Cobbina, Merry Morash, Deborah A. Kashey, and Sandi W. Smith

    Research suggests that individuals on probation and parole typically reside in impoverished neighborhoods affected by multiple forms of socioeconomic disadvantage. These neighborhoods are often extremely segregated, resulting in the concentration of deleterious effects, including crime, on communities of color, especially African Americans. We build on previous research by examining how Black and White female offenders negotiate neighborhood crime in distressed communities. Using a mixed-methods approach, our findings suggest that perceptions of neighborhood safety, crime, and strategies to avoid offending are different for Black and White women and related to neighborhood context. We propose that future research should investigate long-term outcomes of the use of particular strategies to address neighborhood crime.

  • Research Methods

    Tracking Methods and Retention for a Longitudinal Sample of Alcohol and Drug-Involved Women
    on Probation and Parole
    Journal of Community Psychology

    Miriam Northcutt Bohmert, Kayla M. Hoskins, and Merry Morash

    Attrition, or the progressive loss of individuals from a sample, poses a major problem in fields that carry out research to inform policy and program design. Attrition reduces statistical power by reducing sample size and compromises the external validity of findings by introducing sampling bias. If sampling bias results from disadvantages that act as barriers to research participation, then it promotes social injustice by excluding disadvantaged groups from the study. This study describes strategies used to retain participants in a longitudinal study of experiences of women under community supervision (probation or parole). It uses quantitative methods to examine sampling bias and qualitative methods to elicit accounts of participants' explanations for being hard to reach and their recommendations for retention in future research. For participants who were and who were not retained, there were no statistically significant differences on several common quantitative predictors of retention. Hard-to-reach women identified residential mobility, low income, and busy lifestyles as main reasons research staff had difficulty contacting them and recommended repeated attempts at contact through multiple means. The article ends with recommendations for limiting attrition of disadvantaged, justice-involved women in studies, and for steps to be taken when women are especially difficult to contact.