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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Foreign Nationals: Needs Identification - Meeting with Foreign National Federally Sentenced Women

Findings

i) General Profile
ii) Issues Raised by Foreign Nationals - Federally Sentenced Women
iii) Proposals Made by Foreign nationals - Federally Sentenced Women

 

i) General Profile

• The meeting was attended by 10 women. With the exception of 1, they all understood and spoke English.

• The majority of the women (8) had landed immigrant status.

• Most stated spending a significant portion of their adult life in Canada.

• About half of the women have children born in Canada.

• The majority have other relatives in Canada.

• The majority of women expressed a degree of confusion as to their specific situation with regards to their deportation status.

ii) Issues Raised by Foreign Nationals - Federally Sentenced Women

The women expressed several concerns regarding the process of deportation. These concerns were:

• Having deportation orders despite the fact that they have no connection to their country of origin. For example, some do not speak the language or know the culture, or had not been back since they were children.

• Having deportation orders despite the fact that they had children born in Canada. For some women, therefore, there was the added problem of making arrangements to take the children with them. For others, whose children were older (teenagers), this meant separation.

• Not being informed of their rights as foreign nationals. One woman wanted to serve her sentence in the United States, but was not informed until six months later that she could have legally applied to do so at the beginning of her sentence.

• Some felt that their case manager was working against them, wanting them to get deported. This resulted in women not being able to manage their sentence and not establishing a good relationship with their case manager.

• Some stated that they often did not have, or follow, a correctional plan if they were given a deportation status. This was also true for women whose case managers thought they could be deported. For most of their sentence, these women did not attend the required meetings. Sentences were managed by case managers as if deportation was going to occur in the near future, when in fact only a small percentage get to that stage.

• Concern that the lack of adherence to correctional planning would effect their parole hearing.

• Women stated that their situation was not adequately explained to allow them to make any educated decisions. As well, the information given was inconsistent.

• Many stated becoming very dependent on their immigration lawyers for information.

• Many had problems retaining lawyers for their cases since legal aid does not provide them with assistance.

In regards to day-to-day needs, the women stated that the needs were generally the same as others. However, some needs were identified by the women:

• There was no diversity in the meals.

• The canteen did not have items available to meet their particular needs. Black women stated needing specific hair products as well as cosmetics and skin products. They strongly felt that they should not have to make a special request for such items.

• Concern that there was not appropriate translation services available.

• Women whose working language is French, claimed that there is no translation of memos or of the postings in the facility. Also, requests for the translation of specific documents from their file took unreasonably long.

• Translation services are, at times, provided by other inmates. This creates the possibility of confidentiality/privacy problems if the translation is of information in an inmate's file that she did not want disclosed.

iii) Proposals Made by Foreign nationals - Federally Sentenced Women

Overall, the women stated that better communication and mutual respect with case managers would address some of the concerns expressed. However, they felt that other tools would alleviate some of the problems.

• An information kit about the immigration process would be useful. As well, a list of immigration lawyers and advocate groups could be provided.

• Case managers should have some knowledge of the legal entitlements of foreign nationals.

• Case managers should have some knowledge of the appropriate referrals to give foreign nationals. Ms. Leslie Milbury, a member of the Working Group on Foreign Nationals, suggested that arrangements needed to be made to ensure foreign nationals have access to consular representatives in the new regional facility