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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Proceedings: Meeting Of Correctional Service Of Canada And National Women's Organizations: Update On The Federally Sentenced Women Initiative

Issues Under Development


Security Management System - Marie-Andrée Cyrenne

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  • Past security classification systems were established for males not females. This problem is reflected in other countries as well. CSC studied the Shakopee (Minnesota) security classification model and used this model for the proposed system for the FSW facilities.
  • The Security Management System consists of a six-week process during which we must get considerable information on FSW. This will be a dynamic/holistic approach wherein the Primary Worker will identify the required information in partnership with the woman.
  • A detailed description of the proposed Security Management System for FSW is provided in the document of the same name. Following discussion with the participants, it was agreed to send the document to them for comments. However, the Commissioner alerted participants that the timeframe for consultation would be tight.


Mother-Child Program - Hilda Vanneste, Director, FSW Program, NHQ

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  • Major concern identified in Creating Choices was the separation of mothers from their children when the mother was sentenced to prison, particularly in cases where there was considerable geographic dislocation with the one federal prison being located in Ontario. As an interim measure prior to the opening of the new facilities, one annual family visit is funded in these cases to start the reconnection of mother-child relationships.
  • Task Force on FSW recommended that women be allowed to have children in the new facilities, with the goal being to foster positive relationships between inmate mothers and their child. The overriding concern is the best interests of the child.
  • Regional facilities and the Healing Lodge have bedrooms for the children to reside in the facilities. The daycare will be built at the Healing Lodge, and the other facilities have it included in the design for the future.
  • Program framework covers various options including, regular visits, private family visits, on-site, part-time/full-time residential living between mother and child and after-school programs. Age limit proposed is six years of age.
  • Legal mandate - CSC's mandate is to provide for the care, custody and reintegration of adult women sentenced to two years or more. Our mandate is not to provide for the care and custody of their. This presents somewhat of a legal bind for us. Originally, it was proposed that the mother would be responsible for the costs associated with raising their children. However, many of the women do not have the economic background, nor will the facilities provide a level of pay, to enable them to meet all these costs. CSC is now examining the possibility under provincial child legislation to separate the mother from the child in terms of support for clothing, food, etc. As well, children in the community-at-large are entitled, if deemed required by the social service agency, to take part in programming (e.g., psychological counselling for those who have suffered from the effects of violence within the family); we will have to see if this can be extended to children residing at the facility.
  • In the cases of Aboriginal women, many have been subject to abuse in residential schools, etc., and may never have experienced positive parenting, therefore, they may require assistance in this area.
  • Must ensure that the children’s development within the prison environment continues as it should. CSC now has a contract underway with a specialist wherein she is examining the stages of children’s development up to age six. This will form a framework for the structure of the mother-child program which will be in keeping with the facility’s operational philosophy to ensure we acting in the best interests of the child. The planned completion of the report is end-February/mid-March 1995.
  • The contractor has also been asked to provide advice on the various issues surrounding the mother-child program, including a review of other country’s models. All this information will be amalgamated into one report with a submission being presented for the approval to CSC’s Executive Committee.
  • Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women currently has a Mother/Child Program, but women must be in the open living unit. CSC will have to deal with the matter of the enhanced living unit within the mother-child framework, as this is clearly not an acceptable environment for a mother-child program.
  • R. Boehm noted that the Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton produced a publication entitled Noboby There: Making Peace with Motherhood which provides insight on the difficulties of women who have suffered from sexual abuse, substance abuse, etc., and have feelings of guilt when they are faced with motherhood and must separate from their children because they are inadequately prepared. It was noted by CAEFS that other reference documents were available from local Elizabeth Fry Societies on this issue as last year’s E. Fry Week focused on mothers in prison. H. Vanneste noted that a copy of this publication was provided to the contractors developing the Parenting Program Guidelines.
  • It was emphasized by the Church Council on Justice and Corrections that CSC needs to be consistent in the approach used in the dealings with women and that which we are conveying to them in programs, particularly the parenting program.


Program Development : Status Update - Lisa Watson, Senior Project Manager, FSW Program, NHQ

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  • Core programs for the FSW facilities will all reflect a women-centred approach. These programs do not necessarily apply to the Healing Lodge which is developing its own strategy.
  • Most programs will be delivered by community experts
  • Women-centred substance abuse program - two contracts have been awarded (for French and English) which are in the final stages of development and should be completed by the end of February.
  • Parenting Skills - guidelines for program development were recently completed. Subsequently, the FSW Facility Wardens can seek out appropriate programs in community.
  • Anger Management - literature review stage - The Anger Management Program for males is not appropriate for women; we are looking at two sub-programs: women who behave violently; and women dealing with anger and other emotions (e.g. aggression); self-esteem; self-injury; effects of incest, shame, guilt, etc. -- completion of literature review will determine next step.
  • Cognitive Skills - will be delivered in-house.
  • Literacy and Continuous Learning/Education - will have to be implemented via contracts between local education authorities and the individual FSW facilities, as education is under provincial jurisdiction.
  • Survivors of Abuse and Trauma - The framework paper will be tabled at FSW Facility Wardens' meeting this week.