Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Harkness, Sarah K

First Committee Member

Heimer, Karen

Second Committee Member

Sauder, Michael

Third Committee Member

Zaloznaya, Marina

Fourth Committee Member

Rand, Jacki Thompson


In this project, I sought to understand how evidence-based practices are understood and implemented by individuals who work within the criminal justice system, with specific focus on the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women (ICIW). I collected interviews in the summer and fall of 2016 and observations at local criminal justice agencies from summer 2016 to summer 2017. Thirty-eight individuals agreed to be interviewed, including ICIW staff, Department of Corrections (DOC) staff, prison volunteers, and prisoner advocates. I found that how individuals understand “what works” in prison policy and practice is shaped by three main factors. First, their ideological standpoints on what purpose prison ought to serve influenced how they thought evidence should be used to inform policy, whether they believed it should achieve humanitarian goals of giving offenders second chances, utilitarian goals of keeping the community safe, or bureaucratic goals of ensuring that prisons are run efficiently and rationally. Second, their experiences with prisoners shaped their acceptance or skepticism of certain types of evidence, and respondents placed more value in experiential and anecdotal evidence in the case of women-centered policies. Third, the respondents’ stereotypes about who women are and what their place is in the larger correctional system contributed to more ready acceptance of women-centered practices, and more skepticism of statewide or uniform evidence-based practices. In turn, these different interpretations of evidence and the policies based upon it contributed to conflict and resistance to statewide DOC policy, as well as greater feelings of frustration and disenchantment among correctional stakeholders.


criminology, evidence-based practices, gender, incarceration, penal reform


xii, 207 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 193-207).


Copyright © 2018 Allison Gorga

Included in

Sociology Commons