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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

Questions and Answers


Staff Quotas

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  1. What is the breakdown of the number of CSC staff (men and women) being redeployed, and how many are anticipated to come from other departments and the local community? Are there any quotas/guidelines that will be followed for this? Any numbers of the male/female split for staff? Cultural/racial diversity of staff - will First Nations and Black people be hired? (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  2. Further clarification was requested on not establishing staff quotas/affirmative action program outside of any other overall policy or philosophy (National Action Committee on the Status of Women)
  • The process is not that far along to give definite numbers. They are still reviewing surplus staff and priority referrals from other departments. Exact numbers can provided at a later date.
  • Plan was to hire four external Primary Workers from the local community, and they still anticipate doing so. Half of the staff should be CSC staff to provide the experience to run the facility from the outset.
  • There are no quotas on male/female staff. They would like to have at least two male staff as a lone male staff member would not be workable. Males will likely need support and training on how to handle certain situations, and this will be provided prior to opening.
  • Anticipates having some interest locally from First Nations and Blacks to work at the facility and would like to foster this interest given the population in the area. Would like to have a minimum of one First Nations and one Black on staff, and are hoping to have the interest from these groups. Support will also be required for these staff members working in the FSW facility.
  • None of the FSW Facilities have set any targets with regard to the number of males/females, etc. The intention is not to restrict hiring based on gender, but to get the right staff.
  • No quotas will be established. The staffing policy will focus on looking for people who are interested, committed, sensitive to women's issues, and can demonstrate the ability to work in a women-centred environment, where women are involved in the process and are a key player in their overall rehabilitation process. They will also be looking to recruit staff who are representative of the FSW population, e.g. approximately 15 foreign nationals will be at the Kitchener facility.
  • Limitations will be set for males working in the FSWF, i.e., front line male staff will not be allowed in the living areas of FSW; must announce themselves if entering; and not permitted in washrooms/showers unless in an emergency situation.
  • Approximately 35 individuals will be hired at the entry level. Quotas have not been established for male/female targets. Looking for most qualified individuals. 80-90 percent of the applicants are female and trend is not likely to change.
  • Given high percentage of Aboriginal offenders, they have given more attention to the recruitment of Aboriginal staff and have made considerable efforts to solicit the interest from this group.
Healing Lodge:
  • The Healing Lodge will be staffed primarily by Aboriginal individuals.
  • J. Edwards emphasized that every issue with regard to the FSW Facilities is reviewed on a national basis and final decisions on CSC's position are made by the Executive Committee of CSC. With regard to gender, the overwhelming number of Primary Workers in the FSW Facilities will be female. However, there are still men who are capable of doing job, and they should not be excluded. Thus, we have no quotas and do not need affirmative action in this case. It will happen by natural selection and through staff screening. We can give more precise figures on male/female staff split, etc. after training has been completed.


Cross-Gender Staffing

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  1. Clarification was provided on the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies’ position on males working in female institutions, i.e. that they are not opposed to all males working in the institutions, but rather are opposed to those working at the front lines, for various documented reasons, including the history of abuse and violence experienced by a large number of FSW. Further concerns were conveyed regarding males working in female facilities and CSC's inability to identify these individuals with existing screening tools. The concern is that many staff still believe and have stated that male staff are required at the FSW Facilities to handle the women during difficult situations., and therefore, the model at Prison for Women will be perpetuated. (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  • J. Edwards stressed that there is a sharp distinction between the new FSW Facilities and the traditional male cultures that have characterized our institutions in the past. The orientation of the new facilities will be entirely different from what has existed in the past, and a small number of males working there will not destabilize the environment.
  • J. Edwards emphasized that he has never heard of any arguments for bringing males into the FSW Facilities to handle uncontrollable situations. Arrangements have been made with local police, etc., in the event of a situation becomes uncontrollable, however, there is no intention whatsoever to use male staff for intimidation tactics against the FSW.


Staff Training

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  1. Since the Correctional Training Program (CTP) is a condition of employment, will this be the first impression that employees are going to get rather than the other training (e.g., women-centred training, cultural diversity, etc.)? (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  • Confirmed that staff at Truro will be receiving the CTP initially prior to other training, and noted that it will not include weapon training.
  • Also felt concerns about the delivery of the CTP initially. However, they are taking a different approach to the delivery of this training. Training will be done on-site to facilitate the involvement of the Warden and Associate Warden with regards to training content. The weapons training has been removed for the training since this will not be a requirement in the FSW facilities. In addition, the CTP has changed substantially in the last few years, for example, it now includes emphasis on gender issues, harassment issues, etc. Confident that the new CTP will be a positive experience for staff and they will monitor this.
  • R. Boehm stressed the importance of debriefing one's own experience for all staff working with women at the facilities. Prior to any training begins, the staff need to fully understand their own position towards women; their experiences as women and the healing that must come from this. Further, spirituality as a core human experience should not be lost as this is an essential element in helping others.
Healing Lodge:
  • Candidates are taking the CTP course in a modified format after the other required training. It excludes weapon training, and includes Aboriginal history; constitutional history of Aboriginal peoples in Canada; unlearning racism training; elder training.


Consultation With Federally Sentenced Women And Community Representatives

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  1. Given the concerns with regard to the women at Maison Tanguay, would it be beneficial to consult with the women, as this will produce the most reliable results? (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  2. On behalf of the FSW at Prison for Women, the issue was raised as to why videotaping of programs/services meetings has stopped in Kitchener, as they considered this to be important in sharing the progress made at the Kitchener facility. As well, the FSW indicate that there is a lack of consultation by the Kitchener facility with the FSW at Prison for Women. (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  3. What is the federally sentenced women's participation in the advisory process? (DisAbled Women's Network of Canada)
  4. Consultation with FSW should be done by community representatives rather than Wardens as the women would likely be more open with someone from the community. (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  5. Glad to see community representation at today’s meeting. However, distressed to hear that in many of the regions, it was apparently not encouraged to bring an Elizabeth Fry representative to today's meeting. Would like to hear some comment on this at some point. (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  6. Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies clarified their position as to women being victimized. They acknowledge the women's background of abuse and their accountability for their behaviour, but they reaffirm the philosophy of Creating Choices, and that of the new prisons, that the women's needs must be met in a healing environment. Further, public understanding needs to be promoted with regard of the women's backgrounds, the circumstances around their offending and what will create the most safe situation for the community upon their release. These points should be emphasized in discussing the matter with the public, rather than focusing on public opinion and demonstrating a "get tough" approach. (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  7. Concern was expressed that there was no representation from federally sentenced women at today’s meeting. (National Association of Women and the Law)
  8. It would be beneficial to have a forum wherein more representatives of the National Women’s Organizations, together with the various community representatives, could meet with CSC for more in-depth discussion of the many FSW-related issues. This could also be an opportunity for including some FSW representatives in the discussions. (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  • Clarified that the meetings in question were recorded, not videotaped in the past for information-sharing purposes, etc. The programs/services committees were divided into the nine focus groups as the facility entered its implementation phase. Instead of recording the meetings, the minutes are shared with the women at Prison for Women. The women will continue to be involved and informed of progress via Kitchener's new project officer.
  • With regard to the lack of consultation with the FSW, monthly meetings have been conducted at the Prison for Women for the FSW and turnout has been poor. For the upcoming meeting, an invitation will be sent to each of the women at the Prison for Women to ensure they are provided with an opportunity for input.
  • The "women as victims" issue has arisen from the public. It is a common public perception that CSC focuses all its attention on women offenders, and they consider the new concept for the facilities to be supporting women as victims. CAEFS and CSC recognize the background of the women.
  • CSC does not advocate a "get tough" policy for the new women's facilities, there is a small percentage of women who require higher security and CSC must be in a position to handle these women.
  • Information is being gathered from the women currently incarcerated at Maison Tanguay to assist in the transition to the new facility in Joliette.
  • Currently one former FSW is on the Program Advisory Program. Whenever an issue arises, such as program development, the FSW are consulted and the necessary amendments are incorporated. This has become much easier now that the women are in Saskatchewan. Documents are regularly taken to the FSW in Saskatoon for consultation purposes.
  • J. Edwards Indicated that having federally sentenced men or women at meetings of this nature does seem to have been the tradition of CSC. He indicated that he has, however, met a number of inmates and inmate committees on various occasions. He will take the suggestion under advisement for future meetings.


Task Force Report - Creating Choices

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  1. Were members of the Citizen Advisory Committee given Creating Choices when recruited? It is considered important to ensure that this information and FSW Facility framework is promulgated as compulsory reading to ensure the original philosophy of Creating Choices is not lost through the implementation process. (Church Council on Justice and Corrections and National Council of Women)
  • Members were given the Mission of a Citizen Advisory Committee to start, to ensure they understood what their role would be working with corrections. Other information specific to the FSWI, including Creating Choices, will be provided at a meeting of new members in January 1995. In the last year, they have printed over 300 copies of Creating Choices for distribution. A number of the Citizen Advisory Committee members have been involved in the project for sometime and have read Creating Choices.
  • The members of the Citizen Advisory Committee are interested in the many other aspects of the project, including the construction, etc. Information has been provided to them on these issues together with Creating Choices.
  • Frona Allen indicated that each member of Truro's Regional Advisory Committee and other committees with community participation were provided with Creating Choices. When formed, the Citizen Advisory Committee will also receive a copy.
  • Approximately 5,000 copies of Creating Choices have been distributed to prospective staff; community members; program developers, etc. The Citizen Advisory Committee is divided into three sub-committees, who are considerably involved in soliciting community support, and in all plans for the facility.
  • A complete set of reports, including Creating Choices, Kathleen Kendall's Program Evaluation and various associated research reports, have now been sent to all major university and public libraries.


Cultural Diversity Among Federally Sentenced Women

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  1. Will the task group on cultural diversity in Kitchener be involved in the implementation of the programs or will this be done by staff? What training will be provided for staff in terms of cultural diversity and how will CSC meet the needs of federally sentenced immigrant women, both in terms of culture and dealing with racism. (National Organization of Visible and Minority Women of Canada)
  2. There are a number of women at Prison for Women whose needs in terms of language are not being met in programs and services. For many, deportation is a possibility and they require link-ups to legal resources. There is still significant work to be done in this area. With regard to the Joliette facility, will they be able to address the fact that half of the Maison Tanguay women are anglophone or are foreign nationals with another ethnic language? How will services be offered? (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  3. Given the number of First Nations women who will be at the Edmonton facility, will training such as that being done for the staff at the Healing Lodge be included in the training for Edmonton staff and possibly all other facilities? (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and DisAbled Women's Network of Canada)
  4. Is the Healing Lodge restricted to Aboriginal women? Given the high numbers of Aboriginal women, how will it be decided who is able to go to the Healing Lodge? (DisAbled Women's Network of Canada and Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  5. Inuit Women’s Association has had little involvement with regard to the FSW Facility implementation. There are a small number of Inuit women at Prison for Women. They would like to know if CSC is interested in developing an action plan for these women. (Paukatuutit Inuit Women’s Association of Canada)
  • Most of the task groups will be involved in the establishment of programs and will continue to be involved in an advisory capacity once the facility is operational.
  • One aspect of the 10-day training package for all staff focuses on cultural issues. The task group on cultural diversity has been formed to ensure the staff training will meet the needs of the various races/cultures. The group will be spearheaded by the head of the Multicultural Centre in Kitchener.
  • Joliette must ensure programs in English and French. With regard to the multicultural community, Montreal is a larger multicultural centre and such services for Joliette will be available through volunteer programs and the like. Since CSC must operate within a budget, they will rely to a large extent on volunteers, but perhaps will pay for transportation of volunteers.
  • They have been involved in discussions to expand the 10-day women-centred training to ensure more emphasis on cultural issues. Having a proportion of Aboriginal staff which is equal to that of the Aboriginal women offenders at the facility will contribute to a culturally sensitive environment. This will be important together with ensuring training is available.
Healing Lodge:
  • The women going to the Healing Lodge do not have to be Aboriginal, however, they must be committed to the Aboriginal way of living - respect of Mother Earth, respect for each other, caring and sharing.
  • Various factors will determine who will be approved for transfer to the Healing Lodge: intake assessment; interviews; crime and circumstances related to crime; those who genuinely want to heal and are looking for their Aboriginal roots; those who will benefit the most. Aboriginal women from other regions will be considered for the Healing Lodge.
  • J. Edwards indicated that CSC does not segregate inmates on the basis of racial/cultural origin. While some racism likely exists in CSC institutions, it is acted upon when it is uncovered, and is not as endemic as what came out in the report of the Commission on Racism in the Criminal-Justice System for the province of Ontario. Further, given the small size of the facilities, there will not be large groups of women from the different racial/cultural orientations, but rather very small groups.
  • H. Vanneste added that CSC has started to examine the area of federally sentenced immigrant women by conducting an initial survey last summer and examining these women's needs within the federal prison system. It was acknowledged that this is a preliminary start in this area and work will continue. The staff training in cultural diversity will also assist in this area. One role of the community groups will be to ensure that attention is paid to these issues on an on-going basis.
  • J. Edwards referred to the conference on Aboriginal offenders taking place in mid-February to discuss Section 81 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), which allows for the Commissioner of CSC to transfer the care and custody of Aboriginal offenders to Aboriginal bands. No action has been taken on this issue since the CCRA was implemented, and debate is needed on what Aboriginal communities can do to more effectively help these offenders serve time and reintegrate into their communities. Having the Aboriginal communities involved in this way, there will be an automatic spillover into more action prior taking place prior to offences occurring, i.e., communities tackling crime prevention, etc.
  • S. McIvor (Native Women’s Association) is chairing the above-noted meeting and she indicated that Paukatuutit has been invited which will provide an opportunity to discuss the needs of Inuit federally sentenced women and men. S. McIvor noted that Paukatuutit was contracted to conduct a study in one of the northern communities and to present the findings at the conference in February. The Commissioner noted that further discussions on Inuit FSW can also be pursued following this conference.


Security Management System

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  1. Various participants expressed concern about CSC’s proposed classification system for federally sentenced women. Comments included:
    • It will be very difficult to implement the model that has been proposed as we first need to undo what has been done at Prison for Women;
    • We need a realistic appraisal of risk, however, the labels of the proposed FSW system are entrenched in male behaviour and very much associated with male institutions. We need to create a new, distinct system, without looking at existing models;
    • The security classification model does not seem to reflect the spirit of the new concept for FSW; and
    • Insufficient consultation has occurred on this, and other issues, involving the FSWI, and a commitment is needed by CSC to share information.
  2. M-A Cyrenne clarified the holistic nature of the proposed Security Management System, and stressed that the emphasis will be on the way we respond to the women’s needs. The FSW Security Management System must adhere to specific ections of the CCRA which address security classification.
  3. Considerable consultation has occurred on this issue at a regional level, however, CSC will undertake to consult with the National Women’s Organizations on the proposed Security Classification System. It was agreed to share the draft proposal with the participants and send a copy to them within three weeks for comments.


Program Development

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  1. Has the area of learning disabilities been addressed in terms of education programs and what is the psychiatric support for women with these disabilities? (DisAbled Women's Network of Canada)
  2. What programs have been developed in terms of addictions? (DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada)
  3. For many women who have disabilities and have been through the psychiatric system, healing and children are central to rehabilitation and often motivates many women to change and get back to their families. This was stressed for the Healing Lodge, and should be a focus for the other facilities as well. (DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada)
  4. It was highlighted that no comprehensive needs assessment exists in literature with respect to the needs of federally sentenced immigrant and visible minority women. For the past two years, the National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women and the Congress of Black Women have been working with the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies to conduct such research. (National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women and Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  5. Have FSW been involved in the development of programs? (National Association of Women and the Law)
  6. FSW Program Strategy is based on CSC’s Correctional Strategy, rather than creating a distinct strategy based on the women’s needs as per the recommendation in Creating Choices. Further, the sections of the CCRA should be further examined with regard to gender-specific programming (Church Council on Justice and Corrections and Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  • With regard to learning disabilities, no women-centred program has been developed in this area. Some research has been done in terms of learning disabilities caused by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and this is being pursued by a research student. This area will be examined under education program development.
  • Issue regarding psychiatric intervention is still on the table. Opposed to using psychiatric centres for men for Edmonton. Feeling is that a lot of psychiatric intervention is not required in the traditional sense. Development of women-centred intervention of this nature still has to be further discussed with the Program Advisory Committee.
  • L. Watson indicated that much of the program development is based on surveys/information gathered from the FSW. Thus, their participation is present, but not in a continuously direct way.
  • CSC agreed to further investigate the sections of the CCRA addressing programs in terms of gender-specific program approaches.
Prison for Women
  • T. LeBlanc emphasized that the FSW Program Strategy is based on the identified needs of the women, the research that was done for the Task Force and on-going research from experts. It is a strategy that is very distinct from the CSC’s Correctional Strategy for men. For the first time in CSC’s history, we have a document which describes the core need areas of the women based on the research of the Task Force.


Community Corrections - Alternatives to Incarceration

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  1. This year’s theme for E. Fry Week was "Alternatives to Incarceration", which is an important issue that needs to be discussed in order to stem the trend towards a reliance on incarceration and the ramifications of this, including overpopulation. Proposed that this be the focus of a future meeting between CSC and the National Women’s Organizations, etc. (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  2. It was noted that one important issue that has not been discussed today nor in the background documentation provided to participants was what being planned in terms of a community strategy for federally sentenced women. It is important for planning for this to start now. (National Council of Women of Canada)
  3. There are several "areas of slippage" between Creating Choices and the implementation of the FSW initiative. For example, Creating Choices said that the long-term plan was to have community alternatives and the short-term plan was to have interim facilities. We seem to have moved from a community alternative-driven initiative to a facilities-driven initiative. While considerable work as been done for FSW, we will avoid future problems if we re-focus on the community and not on the good order of the institution. (Church Council on Justice and Corrections)
  4. Comment that the Day Parole Legislation hampers the Board, and without halfway houses in the regions, there will be difficulty granting parole. Thus, there needs to be more focus on community placement planning. (National Parole Board)
  5. CSC and non-governmental groups must pursue various community options for the women on release, including work releases, satellite placements, etc. (Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies)
  6. The goal in Creating Choices to ensure community alternatives rather than build more prisons was stressed. Community alternatives must continue to be the goal and this should be reflected in the FSW Initiative and related documentation (Native Women's Association of Canada)
  • J. Edwards emphasized CSC’s concerns with respect to the possible overpopulation in the new facilities, highlighting that no matter how enlightened and progressive model we have, overcrowding has the potential to create problems and jeopardize the success of the new facilities. Problems are evident in the male system, some coming from the societal pressures that result in overcrowding. Therefore, alternatives to incarceration will be further pursued to find a way out of the overcrowding problem.
  • H. Vanneste indicated that developing a community strategy for FSW is a priority and initial planning and research has taken place with regard to strategies, programs, etc. for FSW, in conjunction with the various community agencies. Discussions have also begun with the National Parole Board in terms of how best to educate Board Members on the issues of FSW. A framework paper on a community strategy will be developed by CSC which is targetted for completion in Spring 1995.
  • T. LeBlanc noted that the mandate of the FSW Facility Wardens is to establish the facilities, and not to establish a community release strategy. CSC will be mobilizing its community arm to implement a community strategy for FSW. As well, the legislation has had a dramatic effect on the eligibility of release, and this creates limitations in terms of community programming.