2017 Top 25
County of Chester, PA
January 1, 2017

In 2013, Chester County faced an increase in the number of women under community supervision (47-percent increase from 2011–2013) and the number incarcerated at the local jail (74-percent increase from 2005). Many of these women were cycling in and out of jail, which caused chaos and disruption in their lives and families without any real chance of addressing the causes of their criminality. Prior to implementation of the program, 30 percent of the women incarcerated were committed on violations of supervision. The 130 women eventually served by the program had experienced 692 separate commitments to the jail. Recognizing that business as usual was not working, and that the traditional male-centric justice system was not providing the connections and interventions that respect the life experiences women bring into the system, the county looked to the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women and the National Institute of Corrections Justice Involved Women’s Initiative for resources and recommendations on evidence-based programming.

In January 2014, the first probation officer was assigned to the Women’s Reentry Assessment and Programming Initiative (WRAP). The program provides gender-responsive, evidence-based assessments, supervision, case management, and programming to at-risk women transitioning from jail or facing violations of supervision. For the first time in the county’s system, trauma — a prominent feature for justice-involved women — is screened. All staff receives training to understand the impact of trauma on behavior, which in turn drives trauma-informed approaches to supervision, services, and decision-making, allowing for better engagement and outcomes for the women. A gender-responsive risk assessment tool identifies women’s individual needs and strengths allowing for a strength-based model of case planning and supervision. Research has concluded that considering both gender-responsive and gender-neutral factors increases the accuracy of predicting reoffending and improves the quality of case management plans targeting the highest risk factors for women. Community Case Management, using the Collaborative Casework Model for Women, allows for women’s needs to be addressed holistically. Additionally, cognitive-based training and psycho-educational trauma groups are delivered to engage women in their own recovery-building skills, self-efficacy, and community connections. The WRAP program has transformed the traditional criminal justice paradigm of control and compliance, hierarchical relationships, and a focus on presenting problems, to a model where problems are seen as trauma-driven coping mechanisms and supervision emphasizes collaboration and relationships.