In light of the dramatic increase over the past decade in the number of women incarcerated in the Netherlands, we examined 251 female inmates' psychological reactions to imprisonment with a survey that taps importation and deprivation factors and related life experiences. While depressive complaints, irritability and risk of self-harm were all predicted by both sets of factors, the evidence suggests that deprivation factors have a greater impact on these measures of well-being than importation factors. Previous treatment for psychological problems was the most important covariate for psychological complaints and post-traumatic stress. The most important deprivation factors were treatment by staff and other inmates, and environmental stress. Accordingly, we suggest that in order to further our understanding of women prisoners' adaptations to incarceration greater attention should be directed to women's conditions of confinement and less to their histories of victimization and drug abuse. © The Author(s) 2011.