Criminogenic profile of violent female offenders incarcerated in Western Australian prisons

Miss Menna Gower1, Dr Frank Morgan1, Dr  Julie Saunders1, Dr Caroline Spiranovic2

1University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia, 2University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

Risk assessment of female offenders is predominantly based on criminogenic factors found to predict reoffending in males. The tools primarily used to assess violence in female offenders in Western Australia (and all states/territories) include the Historical Clinical Risk -20 (HCR-20), Level of Service/Risk, Need, Responsivity (LS/RNR); and the Violence Risk Scale (VRS). Most of these tools have been investigated for their validity with female offenders with varying results.

Research indicates that there are criminogenic factors specific for female offenders, and that certain factors linked to offending for both males and females have a stronger impact on female offenders.  This presentation will outline research conducted to contribute to the discussion on whether criminogenic factors differ based on gender, with a focus on violent offenders.

The statistical analysis included a matched study design of all WA prisoners, with a history of violent offending, assessed using the LS/RNR and VRS between May 2014 and February 2017. Male and female prisoners were matched based on year of birth, Indigeneity and level of risk as determined by the LS/RNR. This enabled a comparison of male and female offender scores on criminogenic factors whilst controlling for confounding variables (i.e. risk of general offending, age and Indigeneity).

This presentation will specifically illustrate the profile of violent male and female offenders in Western Australia based on the criminogenic factors contained within the LS/RNR and VRS for violent female offenders. The question will be addressed as to whether the criminogenic needs are the same for all offenders, and if so, is there is a higher prevalence of alternate factors for female offenders in comparison to males as suggested by gender-informed theories.

The results of this research more broadly will be used to contribute to the discussions on future assessment practices and treatment targets for violent female offenders.


Menna Gower has worked with the WA Department of Justice since 2007. During this time, she has conducted evaluations of programs, managed projects specifically regarding the assessment and treatment of offenders, facilitated programs in both community and prison and provided training in risk assessment tools across the state. Menna completed a Bachelor of Psychology at Murdoch University in 2000 and followed this with a Masters in Forensic Psychology at the University of Kent, Canterbury where she researched social attitudes into female victims of domestic violence. Menna is in the final months of a PhD through the University of Western Australia.

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