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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Long-Term Federally Sentenced Women: Literature Review

Correctional Program Strategy For Federally Sentenced Women

1. Living Skills
2. Survivors of Abuse/ Trauma
3. Literacy and Continuous Learning
4. Substance Abuse Programs
5. Other Programs and Services

The Correctional Program Strategy for Federally Sentenced Women identified several core programs that will be implemented in each of the new regional facilities. The core programs for FSW are:

1. Living Skills Programs

2. Survivor of Abuse Programs

3. Literacy and Continuous Learning Programs

4. Substance Abuse Programs

The Program Strategy ensures that the needs of all women including those of long-term offenders are met. However, all programs need to be sensitive to the experiences of women serving long-term sentences. A brief description of the core programs and its components is as follows:

 

1. Living Skills

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Cognitive Skills

The Cognitive Skills component addresses problem-solving skills and critical reasoning. This program has been reviewed and a few modifications will be made. There are no issues particular to FSW serving long sentences that needs to be addressed, other than to ensure accessibility.

Parenting Program

The Parenting Program is very important for all women; this program will be reviewed and enhanced so that it deals with issues specific to FSW. The program must also be sensitive to the issues of those serving long sentences; that is having to cope with sustained long-distance parenting. Maria Christina Jose in her study of women doing life sentences, argues that long-distance mothering is painful, labelling the phenomenon as the "Phantom Mother." Women often feel guilty about what their long incarceration will do to their children. [ Maria Christina Jose, Women Doing Life Sentences: A Phenomenological Study , 1985, pg. 165.] Parenting programs should include an examination of this experience so that mothers are better able to cope; as well, it should include parental rights and legal issues. Although this experience may not be unique to women serving long sentences, it may be more severe.

Dealing with Anger and Understanding Emotions

This program is in the development stages. As with all programming for FSW , it will take an holistic approach and incorporate the past experiences of women. Early access to such programs is crucial for women serving long sentences because frustration and anger about their situation is experienced through many stages of their sentence.

Leisure Education Program

This program will promote health, wellness and nutrition. It is important to ensure that women serving long sentences have access to this program.

 

2. Survivors of Abuse/ Trauma

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This program's proposed approach suggests that women should access the community for support, since that is where the expertise lies. It is important, however, to keep in mind that legal restrictions may limit access to the community by women serving long-term sentences. In these cases, the community should be encouraged to enter the institution for program delivery.

 

3. Literacy and Continuous Learning

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Continuous learning is a concept for adults whereby learning is ongoing. In this program strong emphasis will be placed on improving literacy and educational levels. It is important that women serving long sentences have ongoing access to such programs. There is a need for educational programs that have some longevity.

 

4. Substance Abuse Programs

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Substance abuse programs must address the unique needs of women as well as the social context in which women find themselves, which includes, their histories of dependence, abuse and financial difficulties. The programs must address the issue of substance abuse within the facilities;, although this is applicable for all women offenders, for long term offenders, access at an early stage is part of preparing them to serve a long sentence in the most constructive way possible. Hence, access to this programs needs to be ongoing for women serving long sentences.

 

5. Other Programs and Services

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It is important to incorporate programs that may help women cope with their long sentence. These program strategies are not easily developed; however, a closer look at programs such as increased family access and institutional careers suggested in both the literature, and The Perron Report, may provide some insight.