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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Program Strategy for Women Offenders August 2004

Part 5 - Program Evaluation

Applicable to all correctional programs, the Standards for Correctional Programs form the basis for program evaluation.

Program Development

Program development is based upon needs analysis, review of literature and current practice, consultation, specific program design, and demonstration projects.

Program Facilitators who deliver Programs to Women Offenders

Programs should be delivered by qualified, well-trained program staff and/or agency staff; the effectiveness of correctional programs is in part determined by the quality of the program facilitators. Program facilitators delivering programs to women offenders should possess the following qualities:

  • Knowledge in theories related to program design: social learning theory; cognitive-behavioural intervention; relational theory; and the process of change;
  • Cognisant of an holistic approach (mind, body, spirit);
  • Knowledge of (and preferably experience with) women offenders and criminal behaviour;
  • Experience in facilitating groups;
  • Ability to relate positively and with empathy to women, ensuring that boundaries are clearly defined and in a way that does not compromise the rules and regulations of the institution;
  • Life experience or personal qualities that provide empathic understanding of program participants;
  • Knowledge of trauma, recovery, grief and the impact of violence on women and children;
  • Knowledge of and sensitivity to ethnic diversity in the Canadian context.

Program Evaluation

Program evaluation is an essential component to correctional programming. Correctional Programs have a framework to evaluate the program's effectiveness. Areas of evaluation include, at a minimum: recidivism, reintegration of participants, assessment of change against program targets, participant satisfaction, rates of participation and attrition, and influence of participant responsivity on outcome. As an element of correctional programs, pre and post assessment batteries are made up of measures that have been validated with offender populations. Operational units (institutions and community parole offices) are responsible for the collection of program data, including any automated data, which is essential to the delivery and subsequent evaluation of correctional programs.

The theoretical model of evaluation needs to identify the goals of the program and the process. Finally, both qualitative and quantitative methods of evaluation are used for evaluating women offender programs.

Quality Review

Quality assurance is an essential component for ensuring and maintaining program integrity and serves to:

  • Monitor the appropriateness of offender selection;
  • Monitor the participants' completion of the following: program referral, informed consent form, and documentation on premature exit from program;
  • Review the number of enrolments relative to the number of program completions;
  • Monitor the completion of program assessment data;
  • Review post-program reports to ensure compliance with Standards;
  • Monitor the completion of pre-, interim, and post-program reports and casework records;
  • Monitor the frequency of program delivery;
  • Evaluate program delivery through videotape review or direct observation of required sessions and procedures;
  • Provide recommendations regarding certification of program facilitators;
  • Report on other issues, as required.

Program Accreditation

Program evaluation is a necessary component of the accreditation process. It leads to improvement in program development and delivery and helps maintain program integrity. For the last several years, CSC has been actively involved in a review process to ensure that programs are designed to maximise effectiveness and that they embrace the latest treatment techniques and delivery standards for each specific program area (e.g., substance abuse programs, violence prevention, etc.).

Programs are presented to review panels that consist of internationally recognised experts in the field who assess the program in relation to specific criteria. The panel then recommends those programs that are rated as fulfilling the required criteria to the Commissioner for accreditation. In turn, the quality of the delivery of accredited programs in the field (institutions and community) is then assessed through a process of site accreditation.

Similarly, it is expected that correctional programs designed and delivered to women will undergo a review process of accreditation responsive to gender differences to ensure maximum effectiveness.