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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Long-Term Federally Sentenced Women: Literature Review

Appendix 1 - Project Proposal


The Survey of Federally Sentenced Women reported that in 1991 there were 46 women in the population serving life sentences, 16 other women were serving sentences of ten years or more, making a total of 62 women serving long term sentences. This number may have increased in the last three years. The Task Force report on Federally Sentenced Women, Creating Choices, stated that women serving long sentences do not seem to have different types of needs than women serving short-term sentences. However, it is recognized that WLTO's need for programming is perhaps intensified by virtue of their long sentence. Further, the survey reported that the women themselves identified a need for programming so as to be able to cope with their long sentence. The difficulty lies in identifying what specific issues need to be covered in such programming. Understanding the needs that this specific group has is crucial for the development of any program.

The Task Force on Long Term Offenders (The Perron Report) identified several guidelines for the management of long term offenders including: involvement of the inmate in managing his/her sentence, personalizing programs, developing programs according to the needs identified, increased involvement by the community. The document Creating Choices also addresses these guidelines in their own philosophy and principles which are: Empowerment, Meaningful and Responsible Choices, Respect and Dignity, Supportive Environment, and Shared Responsibility.

The Perron Report also recommends that the four stages identified in long term sentences (adaptation, integration in the prison environment, preparation for release, reintegration in society) be used as a framework for the development of programs for LTO's. The Perron Report recommends:

"that the CSC adopts a management model for long-term sentences, according to the four stages... and that programs modules and services be developed according to the characteristics and needs of each of these stages." (The Perron Report pg 10 #1 of the list of 36 recommendations)

It is therefore paramount to critically assess the stages suggested by the report to evaluate whether they are pertinent to women's experiences and to their needs. Further, it may also be important to first assess whether identifying stages in women's experiences for the purpose of program development is necessary or desirable.

Overall, it is necessary to evaluate the programs set forth by the Correctional Program Strategy for FSW and clearly outline how they will be meeting the needs of WLTO's. This requires relating the programs to the four stages mentioned. This will allow for an identification of potential weaknesses as well as strengths of the programs as they pertain to WLTO's, also it will identify any gaps in programming. In order to address the issues discussed the following course of action will be pursued.

I Literature Review

This will include a review of the resources available: the Task Force report, Creating Choices and all the reports stemming from the Task Force, The Perron Report, user reports, and literature that is directly related to women serving long sentences.

II Discussion Paper

A discussion paper will be prepared in which a summary of the literature review will be provided. The purpose of the paper will be to provide an analysis of how the findings in the literature relate to the principles set forth by the task force report Creating Choices. It will describe potential needs as they are identified in the literature and will clearly outline how those needs will be met by the programming already established in the Correctional Program Strategy for FSW.

A significant portion of the paper will be devoted to assessing the needs of WLTO's in the different phases of their sentence: incarceration stage, pre-release stage, and release stage. The programs established by the Correctional Program Strategy will also be assessed within the context of the different phases.

Further, the discussion paper will attempt to provide some insights and suggestions on what other tools could be used to meet the needs of WLTO's.

III Survey of Released WLTO's

The literature review has so far indicated that there is little known about the needs of WLTO's while in the community. The literature available tends to center on identifying the needs of WLTO's while they are serving their sentence. There is a need to move beyond that and clearly assess and identify the needs of WLTO's while in the community. Nevertheless, some of the literature available , although not specific to WLTO's have provided some useful beginnings. For instance, The Release Study Survey of Federally Sentenced Women in the Community, reported that many women found difficulties with the release planning process. The women reported needing more support as well as more information about the resources available in the community. It is reasonable to assume that women serving long sentences may experience similar perhaps more intense needs in this area. In addition, women serving long term sentences may perhaps experience more difficulty reintegrating back into the community. It is essential therefore, that these difficulties be identified so that they can be addressed while the women are serving their sentences. This will perhaps alleviate some of the problems encountered by women, who after many years of incarceration, return to society for a new beginning.

In order to identify the needs of WLTO's while in the community it may be perhaps necessary to conduct a survey of women who have serve long sentences and are now in the community.

The purpose of the proposed survey is to identify these areas -

1) What are the needs of WLTO's in the community, and at the pre-release stage?

2) What are the resources available (facilities/services) to meet the needs of WLTO's in the community. (this needs to be done by the regional facility)?

3) What are the needs of the people working with the women?