Date of Award

Winter 1994

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Stuart Palmer


In 1989, New Hampshire established its first women's prison in response to a lawsuit filed by inmates charging the state with sex discrimination in its treatment of women prisoners. This litigation reflects a growing use of legal reform based on equal protection rights by female inmates to express and remediate correctional needs.

The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the conditions that led to the creation of the women's prison, and the unintended consequences that have resulted from legal reform on the correctional treatment and court processing of female offenders.

This research uses qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative analysis examined archival documents on corrections in New Hampshire, court orders, and other legal documents relating to the creation of the prison. A quantitative analysis of all female felony cases referred to the Hillsborough County Superior Court for prosecution between January 1, 1986 and May 31, 1993 sought to determine whether court referrals, prosecution, incarceration, and length of sentence increased following the opening of the women's prison.

An increase in referral, prosecution, and incarceration of female felony offenders during the postprison period was found. Conversely, case dismissals, rejections, and the use of suspended sentences decreased. It is concluded that the use of legal reform based on demands for parity of treatment has only provided women prisoners with partial relief in identifying and meeting their correctional needs. Most female inmates still perceive the quantity and quality of prison programs available to them as unsatisfactory.

Legal reform was used to present a correctional problem. The creation of a prison was the offered solution. For the inmates, correctional problems still exist, and the creation of the prison has introduced an additional problem--the expansion of the institutional model to more broadly encompass female offenders.