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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Exemplary Community Programs For Federally Sentenced Women : A Literature Review


At the request of Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), a review of the literature relating to community programs available to federally sentenced women (FSW) upon release from prison has been conducted. While this review is not exhaustive, it does examine resources and services across Canada and the United States and identifies exemplary programs available to this client population. Also discussed are several research studies which indicate the needs and risks of female offenders and recommend effective programming strategies which promote successful reintegration. The literature reveals that while the needs and risks of women re-entering society are well known, there exists a paucity of services to adequately meet their particular demands. Several issues have been identified which relate to this inadequacy of services:

• Concerns relating to criminal behaviour among women have traditionally been minimized resulting in a dearth of research available on female criminality;

• Community programs available to women tend to be structured to serve the needs of men and ill-adapted to sufficiently aid women;

• Women in need tend to be uninformed as to the availability of services within their communities;

• Many communities have few or no resources accessible to women in conflict with the law;

• While Native women form a vast majority of the female offender population, their needs have typically been overlooked;

• There are no existing programs designed exclusively to address the needs of federally sentenced women released into the community; and

• Services offered to women within the institutional settings tend to be discontinued upon their release into the community.

The mandate of CSC delineates their commitment to protect society "by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control" (Canada, 1993:X). CSC strives to provide individuals with assistance and support during incarceration as well as upon release into the community in order to further positive re-adjustments. This report will review the feasibility of this directive based upon community services and programs currently available to women following a period of federal imprisonment.