Gender and Crime

Understanding neighborhood influences on crime-avoidance behavior of female offenders

Jennifer Cobbina
Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University

Key Findings

  • Black female offenders more often reported their neighborhoods as unsafe and were more likely to develop socially-isolating crime-avoidance strategies in response to this perceived lack of community security.
  • Women offenders residing in communities where they are socially isolated, economically disadvantaged, and lacking in resources face difficulties in staying clean, sober, and crime-free.

Description

In the article, “Race, Neighborhood Danger, and Coping Strategies Among Female Probationers and Parolees,” Cobbina examined the extent to which neighborhood crime and the perception of neighborhood safety affects female offenders and their crime-avoidance strategies. This study sought to better understand the intersection of race, crime, and neighborhood context. Data for this study came from a broader study of 402 drug-involved interactions of female offenders with their probation and parole agents. Information was gathered during face-to-face interviews which took place in Michigan between November 2011 and November 2012. Analysis of the data showed that black female probationers and parolees more often reported their neighborhoods as unsafe and were more likely to live in areas that had high social disorganization. Coping strategies often included trying to avoid the negative influences of disadvantaged neighborhoods through social isolation. The study concluded that women offenders residing in communities where they are socially isolated, economically disadvantaged, and lacking in resources face incredible difficulties in staying clean, sober, and crime-free. Implications suggest that in correctional practice, it would be useful to identify women most prone to using strategies that may not support a prosocial lifestyle, because they inhibit involvement in valuable social networks. Additionally, it is important to reinvest in low-income communities and provide programs, services, and resources that would be useful in helping women who live in high-crime neighborhoods develop accessible networks.

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