Critical Issues - Women

Addressing the Needs of Women in Mental Illness/Substance Use Disorder Jail Diversion Programs
A Product of the SAMHSA Jail Diversion Knowledge Development and Application Initiative

The Wicomico County (Maryland) Phoenix Project


In the past 15 years, the number of women in the criminal justice system has increased 273 percent. Many of these women have multiple problems, including high rates of mental health and substance abuse problems, child rearing and parenting difficulties, health problems, and histories of violence, sexual abuse, and resultant trauma. Despite the significant increase of women in the criminal justice system, there has been little movement to redesign programming and services to meet the needs of women. Studies on women in correctional settings have found they are typically under-served in all types of jail programming.

The Phoenix Project in Wicomico County, Maryland, is a jail diversion program that focuses on the specific needs of women with severe mental health and co-occurring substance use disorders who have committed misdemeanors or non-violent felonies. The program is a pre- and post-booking jail diversion program that diverts women from the jail to receive intensive treatment in the community. In addition to treatment services, the program also provides services that address some of the specific needs of women, including issues involving children, housing and violence.

To obtain a complete copy of this document, contact the National GAINS Center at 1-800-311-4246 or

Women women


Background and Mission


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