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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Exemplary Community Programs For Federally Sentenced Women : A Literature Review

Unique Circumstances Of Women

Upon release into the community, female offenders face a double jeopardy of difficultly. Independent of criminality, women face discrimination in society simply because of their sex and, as such, they are attributed second class status below men. Women are subjected to physical, emotional, sexual and economic violence reflected in such circumstances as high rates of domestic abuse, lower wages, and less prospect for employment as compared to men. (Levine, 1989:235-6). With the added component of criminal history, women are confronted with overwhelming difficulties to reintegrate into society following a sentence of imprisonment.

Furthermore, Native and visible minority women encounter added discrimination based upon their race. For example, while incarcerated, Native women must endure alienation from their communities and disregard for their culture and traditions. Upon release, little community assistance is available to Native women which respects their personalized needs as women and as Natives (Griffiths & Verdun-Jones, 1989:472). Native women not only face overwhelming rates of physical/sexual abuse, addiction, low levels of education, and poverty, but also systemic and individualized racism which ignores their ethnicity and destroys their identity (LaPrairie, 1993). Native women are expected to assimilate into the conception of a white, Canadian culture reflected in the fact that little attention is allotted for community services which confront traditional program models.

Over the past decade it has become apparent that services specifically designed to meet the unique needs of federally sentenced women are in dire need. Typically, the sparse services that have been accorded to women have been offered in conjunction with male participants as the needs of women were not viewed as being dissimilar. As Sugar and Fox note, women in P4W who sought counselling for issues of sexual abuse, rape, and domestic assault were routinely directed to Kingston Prison for Men to receive treatment with those who represented the perpetrators of violence (1990:3). Moreover, programs fashioned exclusively for women were routinely based upon male models of treatment (CSC, 1994b). As such, the needs of women have been consistently neglected by correctional agencies. It is only recently that the principles and criteria for effective programming for women have even been established. Consequently, such principles can only be at the initial stages of implementation.