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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Program Strategy for Women Offenders August 2004


Relevant Legislation & Policy

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act states that correctional programs must respect gender, ethnic, cultural, spiritual and linguistic differences of offenders (CCRA, 4. (h)). Programs must also be designed to meet the special needs of women, Aboriginal offenders, ethnocultural offenders as well as other groups who have specific needs (Ref.: CCRA Articles 76, 77, and 80).

CCRA, Article 4 (h). That correctional policies, programs and practices respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and be responsive to the special needs of women and aboriginal peoples, as well as to the needs of other groups of offenders with special requirements.

CCRA, Article 76. The Service shall provide a range of programs designed to address the needs of offenders and contribute to their successful reintegration into the community.

CCRA, Article 77. Without limiting the generality of section 76, the Service shall (ii) provide programs designed particularly to address the needs of female offenders; and (b) consult regularly about programs for female offenders with (ii) appropriate women's groups, and (ii) other appropriate persons and groups with expertise on, and experience in working with, female offenders.

CCRA, Article 80. Without limiting the generality of section 76, the Service shall provide programs designed particularly to address the needs of aboriginal offenders.

Commissioner's Directive (726) on the Management of Correctional Programs aims to establish a framework for the development and management of those correctional programs which contribute to offenders' successful reintegration into the community and are effective in reducing re offending. Correctional programs are defined as interventions, which address the multiple factors that contribute directly to criminal behaviour. A correctional program has clearly articulated objectives, participant selection criteria, a process for evaluating progress made by the participant and a process for measuring program effectiveness. It is facilitated by qualified and trained Program Staff.

The Program Strategy for Women Offenders takes into account and is linked to The 2002 Mental Health Strategy for Women Offenders. The stated goal of the Mental Health Strategy is “to develop and maintain a co-ordinated continuum of care that addresses the varied mental health needs of women offenders in order to maximise well-being and to promote effective reintegration”. Correctional programs should be viewed as an essential component to promote effective reintegration, but also constitute interventions, which are complementary to psychological services and treatment.

Similarly, the Program Strategy for Women Offenders must be read in parallel to the Community Strategy for Women Offenders. The Strategy provides a framework for the approaches to be taken with respect to women offenders on release in the community.

The Assessment and Treatment Protocol for Women Who Sexually Offend, revised in 2001, is also to be read in parallel to the Program Strategy as it defines the treatment needs of women who have sexually offended.

The following Commissioner's Directives and policy documents are essential components of the Program Strategy:

  • CD 585 National Drug Strategy
  • CD 700 Case Management
  • CD 702 Aboriginal Programming
  • CD 720 Education of Offenders
  • CD 726 Management of Correctional Programs
  • CD 730 Inmate Assignments and Payments
  • CD 760 Leisure Activities
  • CD 767 Ethnocultural Offender Programs
  • CD 768 Institutional Mother-Child Program
  • CD 840 Psychological Services
  • CD 850 Mental Health Services
  • Program Guidelines Survivors of Abuse and Trauma
  • Guidelines for Parenting Skills Programs for Federally Sentenced Women
  • CSC Manual on Religious and Spiritual Accommodation

Standards for Correctional Programs guide the development and implementation of correctional programs in CSC. Program standards include but are not exclusive to:

  • Administration of correctional programs;
  • Program staff resourcing (selection, training, and certification);
  • Program implementation (staff awareness; offender selection; program delivery; materials; group size; participant assessment; consent; and information sharing).