Beto Chair Lecture: Dr. Joanne Belknap

Beto Chair Lecture Series

April 12, 2013
9:30 - 11:00 A.M.
Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom

Dr. Joanne Belknap, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is the author of The Invisible Woman: Gender, Crime, and Justice , will present "The Trauma, Mental Health, and Offending Histories of Women in Jail: Results of a Multi-Site U.S. Study."

Dr. Joanne Belknap
Dr. Belknap’s research focuses on female offenders and violence against women and girls. Her latest study, a national sample of women in jail, was funded by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance to examine women’s pathways to jail, with a focus on how these women’s trauma, serious mental illness, alcohol, and drug use, and offending intersect. The study found high rates of mental health problems, with a majority of the participants meeting diagnostic criteria for serious mental illness (SMI), lifetime post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and/or substance use disorder (SUD).

The study, which included nearly 500 intensive interviews with female offenders from Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, Washington/DC, and Maryland, found that one in four women in jail met the criteria for SMI, PTSD and SUD. The study was conducted in collaboration with three psychologists, Drs. Shannon Lynch, Dana DeHart, and Bonnie Green. The study also found that:

    Photo of woman collapsed in a jail cell.
  • Trauma and mental illness were associated with onset of crime.
  • Many women in jail met the criteria for SMI, PTSD and/or SUD in the past 12 months and 25 percent reported severe functional impairment in the past year.
  • Half of the women received substance use disorder treatment or mental health treatment prior to incarceration.
  • Most of the women in jail experienced multiple types of adversity and interpersonal violence in their lives.
  • Women with SMI were more likely to have experienced trauma, to be repeat offenders, and to have earlier onset of substance use disorder and running away.

Dr. Belknap is the President-Elect of the American Society of Criminology and was past chair of the organization’s Division of Women and Crime. In 1997, she was named Distinguished Scholar of the Division of Woman and Crime and, in 1994, she earned the Inconvenient Woman Award from ASC for speaking out for college women reporting rapes.

Photo of women peering out behind bars.Dr. Belknap also served for U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in 1995 as a member of the Task Force on Violence Against Women and provided expert testimony to the Los Angeles Police Department Warren Christopher Commission regarding the Rodney King police brutality case in 1991. She has been a member of the Denver Domestic Violence Task Force since 1998, and advised then-candidate Barack Obama's Criminal Justice Policy Recommendation Committee through November 2008.

At the University of Colorado, she was given the student-nominated teacher award for her class on Violence Against Women and Girls in 2001 and, in 2004, she was given the Faculty Assembly Teaching Award by her peers.

Dr. Belknap received a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice and Criminology from Michigan State University in 1986.

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