After the Webinar: Supervising Justice-Involved Women. Q&A with Tira Hubbard

Webinar presenter Tira Hubbard answered a number of your questions after her webinar, The Changing Face of Probation: Supervising Justice-Involved Women – The Pathway In and Out of the System. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: So, when you say gender-responsive, does that also include the LGBTQ community? 

Tira Hubbard: Yes and no. So, gender-responsive really means being responsive to the gender of an individual, which would be their gender identification. So, one of the questions we get asked a lot is, what about, what about women who are trans? What about individuals who are non-binary, like where do they fit within this? Our assessments that we have access to, and our most of our research is pretty binary, it’s men or women, right? You don’t have, in our profession, a lot of research yet on our individuals who don’t fit into one of those two buckets. So, what’s happened is sort of the gender-responsive movement has tried to be really inclusive and be like, we don’t want anyone left out. Although, most of the work is really about women. So, in my state, what we do is, if a woman is trans, she is a woman, right? She’s a woman and so we do the women’s risk need assessment, we put our gender responsive caseload and we provide supervision through the women’s caseload. Different jurisdictions do that in different ways. If someone is non-binary and they’re like, I use they them pronouns. Then we’d like to provide a choice. Would you be more comfortable with this assessment, and this structure, or this assessment and this structure? Which one best aligns with what your needs are? And then provide a choice for that, because neither one of the options is going to be specific to their needs. So, gender responsive really is about women, but as a movement tries to be so inclusive to include sexual orientation and gender identification because we really just don’t want anyone left out.


Audience Question: What does what does universal precautions mean in this probationary context? She’s only familiar with it as a medical term. So, what is universal precautions mean within the world of probation? 

Tira Hubbard: So, much like with bodily fluids, we use universal precautions, right? Like, if you run across bodily fluids, you like a glove up, mask, whatever your requirements are because you don’t know if the bodily fluid is going to be harmful to you or not. So, you use universal precautions. When it comes to working with justice-involved women, the likelihood that they have experienced trauma is so great that we use universal precautions and treat every single woman as though she has experienced trauma because the percentages are so high. So much like you treat every bodily fluid like it could be harmful. You treat every woman like she has likely experienced trauma in her life because that is reflected in the data and in their experiences. So really, great question.


Audience Question: We’ve got a series of questions here revolving around the tools you were talking about. So first, how do we make the argument or sell the idea to our supervisors to become more gender-responsive? 

Tira Hubbard: Well, one of the things you could do is you could start with researching Dr. Emily Salisbury and Ashley Bauman through their website. There is research through both of those because I think when you’re presenting it to administrators, they need to know, we’re not just going to do this because it feels good. We’re going to do this because it is effective because it’s going to decrease recidivism, because it’s a good use of our money. So, you’ve got to be able to use research to back that up. There is so much research out there on gender-responsive practices. Also, the National Institute of Corrections has a justice-involved women online virtual learning. There’s also a great way to be able to access and share research there. I’m drawing a blank, I think, on the handout, there are a couple of other online forums to be able to gather research. Also, I like Google Scholar. You can actually access research on gender-responsive practices, but I’d say specifically looking for research around pathways, moving on, women’s risk need assessment, because that’s how you pitch that proposal, is that this is how it can be more effective. Is gender neutrality effective with women? Yeah, we’ve been using it for years. Is gender responsive more effective? Yes, it’s not a one-off, you’re able to do the work. Office visits when you’re using gender neutral, I was pulling my hair out trying to run a women’s caseload the same way I’d run a men’s caseload because it didn’t fit. Was it still effective? Yes. Was it still working to reduce recidivism? Yes. Once we switched to gender-responsive strategies, adopted the use of the women’s risk need assessment, the pathways to change curriculum, through Bauman consulting. Once we adopted some of those things, the women’s feedback let me know that we were more effective. Because the women were saying things like, you’re asking the questions that I always thought someone should ask me and never did. You’re talking about the things that really matter to me. Like, you’re building a plan for me that aligns with what the goals are in my life that I want to reach. So, I would say if it’s something you’re interested in start reading some of the research, that’s what I did. I found other people that were willing to read some research. I started hunting down these powerful women who’ve done the research, and like having conversations with them, like, “Hey, can I e-mail you and ask for help?” And they’re so receptive because they believe in this movement, they believe in the research, They believe in the effectiveness. And so, they’re so warm and helpful in trying to help you navigate these things. So, reach out, don’t be afraid to ask. And then put a proposal together. But you’re going to show that it’s effective, and you’re going to have to show that it’s not going to cost too much money, right? These are the things.


Audience Question: Does it mean that if we do implement these changes, it also means that we’re going to be tracking before the change? So, implementing the justice-involved women’s practices, we’ll track before the change, and then document after the change, to see if there was a notable difference in how the evaluations went is that right? 

Tira Hubbard: I mean, if you’re able to if you have the abilities to be able to track that, things like recidivism, abscond rates, participation, reporting, engagement, even employment or parenting, or tracking involvement in foster care. Like, are we able to keep more kiddos with moms? Any data that you can track helps to support when your agency or jurisdiction or state or like should we keep doing this stuff? Data is really important in this. I work for a state that has a fairly old system, like an operating system. So, it’s, like the black and the green screen, and use all the F11. So, it’s hard, Like we put a lot of data in there, but it’s hard to pull the data out of it. And so, sometimes that requires, you know, building extra spreadsheets. Being able to figure out, like, are we being effective? But the beauty is that the research is out there, that if you’re doing evidence-based practices, then you’re going to be more effective. And so, your adherence to evidence-based practices increases your effectiveness thereby reducing recidivism. And so, the gender-responsive research that’s been done is looking at evidence-based practices in the work with women and how we can increase our effectiveness by adding gender-responsive strategies. So, the evidence is there, and then, obviously, keeping your own data to be able to back up the differences will help you be able to continue and maintain these options in your area.


Audience Question: How do we articulate the need for WRNA when we aren’t sure what’s included in order to compare it against our existing current risk tool, which for them is the federal PCRA? So, tier of, can you talk maybe a little bit about each tool, if you’re familiar with them, pros and cons, and key differences? 

Tira Hubbard: Yeah, and like most of the gender-neutral ones there’s like the ORAS the LS/CMI, the LSIR. Essentially, most of the gender-neutral tools, most of them are kind of looking at the same eight criminogenic domains that are gender neutral, Which are, like, pro-criminal attitudes, anti-social patterns, companion, substance abuse, family marital, education, employment, prosocial leisure activities, right? They tend to be pretty, pretty consistent, although each one of those gender-neutral assessments is a little bit different. The women’s risk needs assessment is looking at many of those areas as well.

Is based on validated research through multiple studies to show that your gender-neutral tool was effective in projecting risk for women, it was effective. The women’s risk needs assessment is more effective. And in addition to giving you risk, it also gives you additional needs, and it also gives you additional strengths. So, the women’s risk need assessment, rather than looking at just like eight categories, it’s looking at more like 13 because it’s assessing for trauma, it’s assessing for mental health current, you know, past. It looks at parenting involvement, it is looking at parenting stressors, it’s looking at relationships, trauma, physical abuse, sexual abuse, as well as education, employment, anti-social, and friends. So, it’s expanding what is there for men and pulling in the pieces that really build the woman’s pathway.  So, that’s really where that pathway concept came from is that men have a pathway into the criminal justice system, which tends to be companions, what they believe and impulsivity, risk-taking thrill-seeking lifestyle, like that’s how men ended up here. And then, with women, those things may be true, but there are also other things that are true and that may be more pronounced. So, I would say, if you reached out to either Dr. Emily Salisbury or Ashley Bauman, and have that conversation, they could absolutely be able to show you like, this is what the tool offers. This is what it will look like to be able to do the training or to have this in your jurisdiction. They can probably even send you some like marketing materials, like research materials to help you in that proposal to your administration, Because they’re pretty skilled, because they’re two of the trainers that do this nationally. I want to say the WRNA is in something like 40, 45 states, something like that. It’s pretty prevalent across the US. That doesn’t mean it’s statewide in every jurisdiction, but it has been produced and disseminated broadly across the US.


Audience Question: Are there at attributes of the probation officer that is more likely to succeed with women oriented caseload? Do female POs generally work better with female probationers? 

Tira Hubbard: I love this question because it’s a question we get asked all the time.  Like, well, I can’t because I’m like, dude, I can’t work with women. Or, we have an administrator saying like, “Oh, you can’t.” The best attribute is someone who wants to do this, and the gender of the PO doesn’t matter. Ideally, this shouldn’t be a voluntold caseload. Reality, sometimes it’s a voluntold caseload. Like I get it, I’ve had to voluntell people to do it, that the best attribute is someone who is willing to work with women. Because a lot of gender-responsive practices that have been rolled out and are most effective are being driven by the line staff, not by the administration. My state is one that we did this statewide. Internally, I was the PO, I was the line staff, that was like, “OK, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this really well and I’m going to learn everything that I can,” because I got real passionate about it. You don’t always have a PO that’s really passionate about it, right? Like, sometimes that is developed. Sometimes that somebody that doesn’t work for your agency yet. But that’s the best attribute is somebody who is willing and wants to work with women and can be open to it.

That’s honestly, that’s the thing that we look at foremost is who wants to do this work. What I can say is POs who’ve worked with men and then transfer over and start working with women even if they’re resistant to an initially, the feedback we get, you know, a month later, two months later is, “I go home exhausted but so fulfilled,” because women are verbal processors and because they’re approaching supervision with a relational lens, they’re giving you more feedback as the officer. So, they’re telling you, “You did a good job with me, that was really helpful. Thank you.” They’re reaching out more often when they have need, and also when they have success. I don’t know how many text messages I got, because I had like a Google Voice text so that women could text me, like, “I just bought my kid this outfit,” or “I just made this for dinner” or, like, “I just got to see my mom for the first time in four years. She let me come over. Here’s a selfie of us,” because they wanted me to celebrate those wins, and they wanted to share those. So, I can say it’s so fulfilling, because you get a lot of that reinforcement as the officer if you’re open to that.


Audience Question: Should we designate a person then to be entirely female cases? So, they have an entire caseload of women cases. Or is it OK to mix those women caseload cases into other caseloads? 

Tira Hubbard: Yeah. Sure. It depends on your jurisdiction and your resources. We’ve done both. We have some mixed, and I’ve seen this, and not just what we’ve done, but I’ve seen this nationally, right. If you can have a caseload, you have enough women, and you have the resources and ability to have a caseload that’s just gender-responsive, just women, so, that PO can go all in and is only doing one type of assessment, one type of office visit like has their office designed in one way is having, it’s easier for the officer than having to like kind of switch back and forth. Because sometimes that’s a little more complicated where you’re like, “Okay, I’m doing my gender-neutral assessment. I’m having this kind of interaction and I have to shift gears.” Is it possible totally to a lot of jurisdictions have the coed caseload because they don’t have enough women to make up a full caseload or its geographic? You can make it work in whatever way, I would always recommend that if you have enough women, we built an entire gender-responsive unit. We wanted all of our women together and the POs that we’re working with them together so that they have support. Anything can work and anything is better than what we were doing before. And so that’s the other thing, too, is we get to be like, “Hey, we’re going to do our best, And we’re going to get better as we go, and we’re going to learn from our mistakes.”


Click Here to Watch a Recording of The Changing Face of Probation: Supervising Justice-Involved Women – The Pathway In and Out of the System. 



Additional Resources
3 years ago
Family Violence and the Abuse to Prison Pipeline for Girls
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Rights4Girls is one of the organizations at the forefr […]
4 years ago
Intersectionality and Reducing Girls Justice System Involvement
Rights4Girls, in partnership with the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative, worked on a study that […]
4 years ago
Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls
A missing person is a person who has disappeared and whose status as alive or dead cannot be confirm […]
5 years ago
Building Resiliency for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System by Disrupting the Abuse to Prison Pipeline
Unfortunate is an understatement when we talk about the fate of a lot of children who end up in juve […]