Original article| Volume 22, ISSUE 2, e195-e200, March 2012

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Offenders Who Are Mothers with and without Experience in Prostitution: Differences in Historical Trauma, Current Stressors, and Physical and Mental Health Differences



      Women offenders are a growing population in the criminal justice system; most are mothers. A subset of these women have a history of prostitution. Despite more recent research identifying the needs of women offenders who are mothers, those with and without experience in prostitution are still generally represented in the literature as a homogenous group.


      This study examined the differences between mothers who indicated that they had engaged in prostitution with those who had not. The data were from a survey of offending mothers in a Midwestern city and was based on 889 respondents. Approximately 20% of the women indicated that they had engaged in prostitution at some point in their lives.


      Mothers with histories of prostitution reported more exposure to violence, witnessing crime, living in areas with high drug activity, and having a higher rate of physical and mental health problems.


      Health care professionals who interact with mothers in the criminal justice system who have histories of prostitution should be careful to assess for a history of trauma and its psychological consequences. Along with increased health care needs, interventions are needed to help these women obtain basic needs such as stable housing outside of high crime and high drug-use areas and to receive targeted psychological services that respond to the unique trauma suffered by this subpopulation of offenders.
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      Tasha Perdue, MSW, is a Research Associate in the Department of Social Work at the University of Toledo. She is currently working with Dr. Celia Williamson on the issue of human trafficking in the Midwest.


      Celia Williamson, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of Toledo. Her research focus has been on prostitution and sex trafficking in the Midwest.


      Lois A. Ventura, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Toledo. Her research has addressed women offenders, domestic violence, and the efficacy of treatment programs in reducing criminal recidivism.


      Tiffany R. Hairston, MA, PC, LICDC, is a graduate assistant and doctoral student in Counselor Education and Supervision at the University of Toledo. Her areas of interest include chemical dependence and multicultural issues.


      La Tasha C. Osborne, MSEd, LPC, is a graduate assistant and doctoral student at the University of Toledo in Counselor Education and Supervision. Her current research includes utilization and perceptions of mental health services by homeless teen pregnant and parenting females.


      John M. Laux, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Counselor Education at the University of Toledo. His interests are in substance abuse diagnosis and treatment, personality assessment, and the needs of women offenders.


      Jeff L. Moe, PhD, is an assistant professor at the University of Houston-Victoria. He has published in the area of the needs of offender women, and LBGT issues.


      Paula J. Dupuy, EdD, is a retired professor of counselor education at the University of Toledo. Her research interests include diversity, women’s issues, multiculturalism, and qualitative methods.


      Barbaranne J. Benjamin, PhD, is a professor and associate dean in the Judith Herb College of Education, Health Science and Human Service. Her research interests include system responses to the needs of women, older adults, and learners.


      Eric G. Lambert, PhD, is a professor at Wayne State University. His research interests include job and organizational effects on the attitudes, intentions, and behaviors of employees, the evaluation of treatment interventions, and the treatment needs of offenders.


      Jane Cox, PhD, PCC-S, is an Associate Professor in Counselor Education and Supervision at Kent State University. Her scholarly interests include the use of social construction concepts and collaborative methods in counseling practice, counselor training, and counselor supervision.


      Vincent M. Nathan, JD, is an Associate Lecturer in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Toledo. He taught and practiced law in Toledo for approximately 40 years before returning to teaching. He is highly regarded on the national and state levels for his work in the field of adult and juvenile corrections.